White Noise

Dead Air

A little chapel north of my home claims to contact the dead during the church service and transmits to loved ones in the congregation. This all was amusing to me until the preachers relayed information about me no one in that church could have ever known. I haven't returned.

My story is much clearer and scarier than the new film White Noise.

Architect Jonathan Rivers' (Michael Keaton) recently deceased wife appears to be communicating from the dead by way of EVP (Electronic Voice Phenomena) through sound on a detuned radio and white noise on a TV. As Keaton explores the phenomenon, he is drawn into an X-Files world of deadly forces much less scary than those of Ghostbusters fame. What actually happens remains a mystery to me because director Geoffrey Sax, perhaps from his long experience in television, lets us watch snowy TV images and even more inscrutable audio without an iota of explanation.

Rivers is obsessed with contacting his wife and subsequently saving others from deadly accidents as she warns him through decidedly poor reception. Can't these ghosts just steal high-definition televisions for their audience? Is Michael Keaton the only one who can figure out what the images are as he stares at them in most of the film?

I revise my negative criticism of The Forgotten earlier this year: It's now a lucid piece of sci-fi by contrast with White Noise. And Frequency (2000), with its Dennis Quaid father making contact with the dead through his radio, seems worthy of the Twilight Zone Hall of Fame when juxtaposed with those two films. Add The Ring and Poltergeist as superior predecessors.

The premise is intriguing; the execution is turgid and silly, and the payoff murky and downright incomprehensible. Where is the script doctor? And a sequel is being planned!

Talk about dead air.