Upping the budget & hiring nearly worthwhile actors, without any noticeable expense lavished on a worthwhile script, rarely improves a Z-grade horror story. This might've been charming if the acting had been as bad as the story. It might even have had something interesting happen with a trashier director unafraid of actually being gross or scary.
White Noise (2005) is an awful film which begins as the tale of a chinless wonder (Michael Keaton) with a generic but apparently important job that allows him to show up or not as he elects, who has one failed marriage behind him & a son from the first marriage & a second very much Barbi-like trophy wife half his age who is pregnant.
There is no earthly reason to believe he is any more devoted to her than he would be to an expensive hooker, so there's not much impact on the viewer when she gets killed.
But Chinless is all torn up about it & the middle part of the film is about him trying to make contact with her in the "white noise" of televisions, telephones, & radios.
Act Three is about him connecting instead with demonic presences, but in a strictly PG 13 context so there's about as much scariness in White Noise as one would get in a Pokemon cartoon.
Most of the time Michael Keaton just sits around trying to emote. He's usually a much better actor than this but there's really nothing to work with here. He is rarely even talking to other characters.
He has a son, acquaintances with a girl who owns a bookstore, a blind medium, his ex-wife, a secretary, a jolly fat asthmatic, but his relationships with every other character are rarely developed for more than a couple of lines of dialogue, & most of the time he's just all by himself sitting still emoting.
In the first act he sits around watching the clock wondering why his wife hasn't come home. In the second act he sits around listening to white noise. In the semi-action ending he walks around in a dark place until the ghosts get him. Gads its stupid!
There must be one million would-be scriptwriters trying to sell garbled nonsense lots better than this fool script, so how in the world did this one get produced?? It seems to be based on a couple late-night radio call-in programs about ghosts in the white noise of the television set, & how if you listen long enough you'll be able to pick out a word here, a word there, & that's bound to be some dead loved one trying to reach you.
The scriptwriter may have been going ooo, wow, but the audience isn't, because dramatizing a bad eplisode of Mysterious Happenings is only going to appeal to woowoo nutsacks who devoutly believe the worst hokum is absolutely the truth & so don't need a story to go with it.
A film about a snail eating a leaf would be more suspenseful than White Noise.
Nothing ever makes a lick of sense even in a suspenseless horror movie context. The love between the hero & his dead wife isn't rendered believable; the noises that might be voices from the dead aren't very interesting; scary-music close-ups of off-channel television sets & computer screens are boring as all get-out. Why the "bad" ghosts appear to travel in a set of three is never part of the story.
And then in the would-be climax, when something probably violent actually happens, it's all murkilly portrayed because if anything was actually shown on-screen they might not get the GP 13 rating. So we not only never know the why of anything, we don't even get to see the how.
It sometimes appears as though every horror film, no matter how rotten, seeks to be a franchise. White Noise 2: The Light (2007) is only tangentially related to the first film, which is probably all to the better since nothing about the original merited repetition.
During a nice outing at the family pancake house, Abe's wife & son (Kendall Cross & Joshua Ballard) are acting a little funny. Suddenly, out jumps a madman (Craig Fairbrass) who fires multiple bullets at Abe's family.
The killer apologizes to our stunned hero, then plants the final bullet in his own head. Odd there wasn't any blood from the shootings, but try not to notice that fact, as it's not part of the story, it's part of the rating.
The star is Nathan Fillion as Abe. You may know Nathan as Mal from the science fiction series Firefly (2003-2004) & feature film Serenity (2005); as a villainous preacher in several episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer; or as the doctor on Desparate Housewives. As minor tv stars go, he's not the least bit bad, & he's capable of emoting a good deal of gloom, rendering him a good stand-in for Michael Keaton.
Failing in his struggle against guilt, grief & depression, our hero eventually decides to take his own life. A friend (Adrian Holmes) finds him in time to get him to the hospital. While the hospital staff fusses about to bring him back to life, he's having a classic near-death experience in the tunnel of light where he's almost reunited with his family.
Upon his return to the living, he discovers he can see the auras of certain people, specifically those who are about to die; the dying acquire the same light he saw in the tunnel.
He also sees a spirit or demon(s) or something in the static of television & computer screens. Other side-effects of his near-death experience include lights flickering in his proximity, blowing fuses, & voices heard even at some distance from everyone's cellphones, ipods, & radios all around him.
Doctor Karros (William MacDonald) takes an interest in him because of a study about "EVP" or Electrical Voice Phenomenon in the white noise all around us.
Alas, Abe has seen Dr. Karros's aura, & he's soon dead of a heart attack, without contributing much to the storyline except a bit of pseudo-science jibberish that could've been clipped from the film in its entirety.
Abe's ability to see who is about to die leads him down an odd path, giving him a reason to live. He begins to feel like a superhero after saving an old man working on his broken-down van on a roadside, keeping him from getting run over. The instant the man was no longer about to die, the death-light aura was extinguished.
Setting out to see who else he can save, the next day he keeps a glowy young man (David Milchard) on a bridge from being tossed over the side by thugs. The day after that, he saves the life of a glowing woman, following her into a dark parking garage & interupting her encounter with a rapist-murderer.
The third one saved turns out to have been his nurse after his suicide attempt. Her name should've been Miss Smiles All The Time, but it's actually Nurse Sherry (Katee Sackhoff, the sexy new "Starbuck" in the revamped Battleship Galaxative). She's cute as a button & also grieving for the loss of a loved one. She & Abe begin to have the sort of insta-romance that occurs only in films, as a hero is not permitted to be honest about his one night stands.
Life seems to be getting good, except that Abe is still haunted by rather fierce ghosts, some of which actively seek to harm him. When the old man whose life he saved ends up in the news for having driven his van into a bus-stop killing a bunch of people, Abe begins to put a few things together that completely ruin the idea that he's a secret superhero.
He learns that the man who killed his wife & kid is still alive despite shooting off half his own jaw. Abe has a pretty creepy encounter with the seriously disfigured Henry in the madhouse, who tells him in the most appalling way that if you save their lives, you're responsible for their actions. The saved must die!
The script gets a bit silly around this point, overthinking the issue, throwing in some halfbaked & badly developed Satanic stuff & nonsensical interpretations of verses from Revelations, & the Number of the Beast requiring some serious errors of numerology. I half expected blood to spurt out of a sink, since they were throwing in everything but the kitchen sink.
But the upshot is, when Death is cheated of its due, those who are saved have three days & three days only before they go batshit & start killing as many people as they can.
So Henry Caine who killed Abe's family had actually saved Abe's life & the lives of others in that family restaurant, as the signs of illness his wife & kid had been showing were typically preliminary to rampage.
And here it is approaching the same hour of the third day after having saved the young man on the bridge. We get a very fine scene of the young man as pianist in a fancy restaurant, playing increasingly demonic music to the horror of the patrons. This is the best bit in the whole movie, the music being awesomely horrific.
While restaurant workers try to get him to stop, our hero is on the way intent on stopping what he now understands will be an outburst of psycho slaying. Alas, he's only on time to see it happen.
The third one he saved was the very endearing kind young woman who seems to suffer from nothing worse than Excessive Smiling Syndrome. She's a volunteer for a grade school event, & when she goes batshit, it'll mean the death of lots of children. So like Tommy Kirk vs. Old Yeller, gun-totin' Abe has to go after the woman he is falling in love with, bringing a gun to shoot that which he loves best.
It doesn't go exactly as planned & when he's gunned down by the police it's up to his own electrical ghost to complete the mission with some okay visual FX. There are plenty of loose ends & idiotic side-issues that linger, but overall it's a better film than the original, given that the original was a bad film & this one's only half bad.
copyright © by Paghat the Ratgirl