Scott Brown
January 05, 2005 AT 05:00 AM EST

White Noise

type
Movie
Current Status
In Season
mpaa
PG-13
runtime
101 minutes
performer
Michael Keaton, Chandra West
distributor
Universal

We gave it a C-

There is a voice on Michael Keaton’s cell phone. It’s scratchy and utters nonsensical phrases. It is his agent, telling him to star in White Noise, a slapdash goose-and-run hybrid of The Ring and Final Destination, where he will play Jonathan Rivers, a widower who receives staticky messages (Electronic Voice Phenomenon, or EVP for the initiated) from his dead wife (Chandra West). Keaton, stretching those long-dormant eyebrow muscles, accepts, and what might have been a rote horror exercise becomes instead a twitchy, mannered, often amusing rote horror exercise.

White Noise opens with a wonderfully empty EVP testimonial from none other than Thomas Edison (”an instrument so delicate as to be affected by our personality as it survives in the next life…ought to record something”) and gets more nebulous from there. Why is Rivers so quick to drop his natural yuppie skepticism? Easy: A British (and therefore credible) stranger convinces him. Who are those malevolent shapes muttering ”pig,” ”rot,” and ”bastard” over the radio and TV airwaves, baiting the FCC from beyond the grave? Is Rivers seeing past tragedies or future ones? In lieu of satisfying answers, we get crude gee-whizzikers scares, cribbed from the horror canon. As for Rivers’ static problem, he has himself to blame for relying on rabbit ears and VHS. Welcome to 2005, dude: We TiVo our dead.

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