|White Noise (2005)|
|Theatrical Movie Reviews Theatrical|
|Written by Abbie Bernstein|
|Friday, 07 January 2005|
If you’ve ever been even mildly unnerved by anything about your high-end recording equipment besides its price, “White Noise” is here to kick your fears into overdrive. Where “The Ring” played upon urban myth fears of a cursed videotape, “White Noise” spreads the creepiness to all videotape – and audiotape, cell phones and computer recording equipment, too.
Michael Keaton stars as Jonathan Rivers, a successful architect married to equally successful author Anna (Chandra West). The couple are blissfully happy, but one night, Anna disappears. Grief-stricken and determined not to give up hope, Jonathan notices he’s being tailed by a stranger, Raymond Price (Ian McNeice). When confronted, Raymond tells the disbelieving Jonathan that Anna is dead – and has asked Raymond to pass along the message that she’s safe and happy. However, when Jonathan’s cell phone receives a call from Anna’s phone – safely tucked away in a drawer – and then the police show up at the door announcing they’ve found the body, Jonathan is a little more inclined to listen to Raymond. Raymond, it turns out, is fascinated by Electronic Voice Phenomenon, EVP for short, in which recording “white noise” or an empty video signal sometimes captures what sound a lot like words and even images from the dead. Jonathan is increasingly fascinated by this, especially when it seems that Anna is guiding him to help the living. However, there are a few snags – Anna isn’t the only entity on the line, some of these entities are less than friendly and they apparently have the ability to reach out and wreak havoc.
Whether or not EVP is “real” in the sense that it conducts voices from beyond, it is certainly true that a number of people believe in and experiment with technology (and it’s also certainly true that messing around with equipment and blank media will at times yield results that sound like human voices). Writer Niall Johnson has constructed a cohesive narrative that doesn’t stretch our credibility too far regarding the EVP itself, while laying the groundwork for some legitimate scares. Director Geoffrey Sax knows how to create a disquieting atmosphere in both his visual and audio environments – “White Noise” is truly a horror film for audiophiles, as texture, direction and volume of sound are all crucial to both storyline and ambience. The sound design by Bernard O’Reilly and Hugh Johnson utilizes elements like reverb and static and delicately manipulates them into something that has both human vocal quality and an electronic basis, so that we can buy into the whole notion of ghosts in the machines. We also get discrete effects, so that we can hear things happening behind us and up ahead, giving us the sense that we really ought to turn around. The effect is suitably unnerving. Director Sax also makes expert use of shadows and light sources, so that in some scenes, the scariest thing in the room – the flickering screen – is also the only thing that keeps us (and the character) from being completely in the dark.
“White Noise” delivers on its premise and its potential. Here’s another reason to want a trained acoustician around when you’re tuning your equipment. Never mind optimum sound results; after seeing this, you’ll just want someone else there so you won’t be all alone with the static.