Friday, January 07, 2005

White Noise Movie Review by Regman

Wesley Morris of the Boston Globe says White Noise is "a moronic exercise in supernatural claptrap" but Kirk Honeycutt of the Hollywood Reporter thought it sent "more than a few chills down the spine". I'm caught somewhere in the middle.

I went to see the film today with my friend's 15 year old boy to get the teenage perspective as well. There was a great trailer as Lou Lumenick reported in the New York Post "If only White Noise...were even a quarter as good as the coming-attractions trailer." yet I was surprised to see a couple of hundred people had turned out at 3pm on a Friday to watch a movie that was getting such horrible preliminary reviews. Maybe the critics were wrong and people will love this movie.

I'm sad to report that I and my young friend as well as many others at the theater today felt there was a lot missing from this movie.

I now know this is indeed a thinking persons thriller, a kind of "chic flick" with some scary parts but mostly a lot of watching and listening and trying to figure out what is going on. It's not your average scary movie so don't expect to see the same old thing but I think the main problem with this script is that they tried too hard to put the same old stock horror gags into all the wrong places and never fully developed anything.

From the very beginning the whole thing feels disconnected, like a bunch of scenes just strung together with something missing in between. It looked more like an almost done TV show or a concept presentation than a finished full length feature with a big star trying to make a comeback or a director trying to break into films.

British TV director, Geoffrey Sax, who is making his theatrical debut, never gives us a chance to really get to know or even like any of the characters including Johnathan Rivers, the architect Mr. Keaton plays with obvious skill but very little else. It's almost like everyone in the movie is in some kind of trance, unable to show any emotion at all. Even the little boy, when he is around, seems more like the neighbor's bothersome robot child than our hero's beloved son. I didn't have a stop watch but I'd be surprised to learn that any of the four main characters other than Rivers was on screen for longer than 5 minutes at a stretch or had more than 10 pages of dialog all total.

The story bounces from place to place but you are never quite sure where we are going or why we are here. Much of the movie is mostly silent as we watch Keaton drive his car, walk around his office, record EVP, listen to EVP, stand around murder scenes and then set up his ultra high tech EVP/ITC lab at his house. It's kind of like watching a cop movie, but spending the whole first half of the movie on the stakeout.

When you finally expect it to get good and the bad guys finally show up, it only gets hokey and tries to throw in as many horror movie cliches as possible to try and please the modern thriller audience.

There is little explanation about the three mysterious ghostly figures you assume are the bad guys other than a shrugged "they can't all be nice" from EVP obsessed Raymond, the man who gets Rivers started in all this in the first place and is the first to mysteriously perish. They look like aliens and trash houses better than the Mafia or the CIA looking for micro film. They seem to have the vocabulary of your average movie outlaw biker and may be related to the Dementors from Harry Potter's world. But you never find out exactly who they are or what they want. When they do appear you expect them and there is little surprise or suspense involved.

Once our hero starts getting images and audio on his computer from people who are not dead yet, the movie becomes a sort of cross between the paranormal batman and that old TV show Early Edition about the guy whose mystical cat brought tomorrows paper today so he could save everyone before they died. It almost feels like some studio executive finally said "enough with the EVP, what if he could save people with messages from the future?" so they wrote that in.

Then I think another exec said "but cop shows sell well, what if he were a sort of crime solving ghost hunter?" so our hero is off to save the missing girl. "But wait" said another desk jockey, "that's not scary, we need some psycho who looks all weird, maybe like that guy from Silence of the Lambs, he gave me the creeps" so in he goes. Then, I swear to God, someone must have said "but I loved the part in Harry Potter when the Dementors attacked Sirius Black. Can't we have something like that?"

So we get an ending that makes no sense, explains nothing, happens way too fast and isn't scary or suspenseful at all. It just seems like they decided to wrap things up and release what they had. It was very disappointing.

The film is not a total loss however. We are treated to some excellent lighting and camera work form Cinematographer Chris Seager and editor Nick Arthur's choice of angles and cuts helps to make this movie interesting and ominous, even if the script never delivers the goods. The choice of locations and the almost constant presence of running water is tastefully done and fits the story well. There are a lot of great shots in this movie. Too bad it didn't have the script to go with them.

As for new film director Geoffrey Sax, I feel for him. He does have some talent which is demonstrated in many places and it's sad to see his big debut into feature films fall so flatly on it's face. There is potential here, but I think too many studio folks held the reins and I don't think Mr. Sax had a clear course to follow. This movie just wanders around too much. I would not be surprised to learn the directors cut is 4 hours long; that would explain the obviously missing pieces.

As for Mr. Keaton, I don't think he really cares about White Noise. From the interviews I read and the performance I saw today it is obvious he never really got into this project and I'm wondering why he ever signed up for it in the first place.

Now don't laugh, I enjoyed it. I really did. It was a fun movie to see but will not be going into my list of all time favorites. I see this as becoming more of a cult classic like the Rocky Horror Picture show; there sure is enough silence to fill.

Maybe the audience could make it better?

See a real life ghost hunters review of White Noise
or read our first reader review and see what Chris had to say.


jon said...

We are trying to find good movie rating to take the kids this weekend. Good movie rating reviews are hard to find

I just stumbled onto your blog while looking. Seems to happen to me a lot since I am a knowledge mooch LOL


Anonymous said...

I saw the movie, and it gave me chills all the way through me, I have it on DVD, and have seen it a few times, love scary movies, but this had me scared in a different way, chills all over me, the best supernatural movie i have ever seen, they did an very excillent job, and it just makes you think hard about life after death!!