As I sit and tap out these words on my computer, it is January 4, 2005 and I have just seen WHITE NOISE, a prime contender for NEXT years Razzie Award. It is inept, it is inane, and it is seemingly interminable. And why shouldn’t it be? The people behind this dreck thought it would make for a terrifying time at the movies to have Michael Keaton staring at the electronic snow of an untuned television for a big hunk of the running time. And when he’s not staring at nothing, not unlike what we in the audience are doing, he’s dashing around dimly lit sets on some sort of mission, into which we, the viewers, are never clued. Writer Niall Johnson has riddled his scripts with cryptic statements and enigmatic motifs that were a snap for him to include because he never had to worry about them actually leading anywhere.
Keaton is Jonathan Rivers, a grieving architect, mourning the death of his hottie second wife, Anna (Chandra West), the one who, before getting into her cutesy car one morning and driving off into the other side, announces that she may be pregnant. When something that hackneyed pops up five minutes into a film, one can’t help but be on one’s guard. Soon Rivers notices that he’s being tailed by a marshmallow-shaped man (Ian McNiece) with sad but sympathetic eyes. He claims that Anna has been trying to contact him ever since she crossed over. The twist is that shes using EVP, or Electronic Voice Phenomenon, an idea that’s been around, according to the film, since the 1930s. Marshmallow man leaves tape recorders and VCRs running to capture the EVP that can only be heard on playback. Except that after Jonathan convinces himself he’s heard Anna on one of the tapes, he turns his home into a multi-screen video recording studio and the rule changes so that he can see and hear the dead in real time. Granted, this should make for some creepy interludes, and heaven knows director Geoffrey Sax cues the creepy music often enough in futile attempts to convince the audience that there’s something creepy going one, but, as I mentioned before, it’s mostly Keaton staring at the screens at what looks like interference from another, non-supernatural, channel plays across the tube.
Sure, we’ve been told that not all the dead are nice, and from time to time the lights go out for no readily apparent reason, but, what with the story rambling along with no particular place to go, and direction that is as dead as the wife Jonathan is trying to contact, there is no overwhelming sense of dread underlying all the artsy shots and close-ups of the inner workings of a VCR. There’s not even an underwhelming sense of dread.
What is most irksome about WHITE NOISE is that it doesnt even try to pull itself together at the end. No tacked on exposition to connect plot point A to, well, anything else in the film. Instead it floats the unintentionally hilarious idea that a sequel is planned. And while that, too, is irksome, it is at least consistent. This is a flick without a clue from beginning right through to the closing credits.