Static in the attic
Until I saw White Noise, I thought EVP stood for “eat vitamins profusely,” basically because I like to make things up. It amuses me. Anyway, I was wrong because it apparently stands for “electronic voice phenomena,” having to do with folks over in the spirit world communicating with the living through radios, computers, toasters, etc. The film starts with a quote from Thomas Edison, saying something along the lines of, “I’m sure this sort of thing is possible.” It must be, for Edison was the Man of Dreams.
Whatever. White Noise wants to be profoundly scary, but it’s just an excuse for jarring noises, ghosts in the television yet again, and Michael Keaton getting all squinty-eyed. He squints a lot in this one, complete with lip arching and teeth gnashing. He often looks like that moment he had in Batman where he started breaking things and yelling, “You wanna get nuts? Come on, let’s get nuts!” at Jack Nicholson.
Keaton plays Jonathan, a trendy architect who loses his wife early in the film to mysterious circumstances. He’s soon visited by a stranger with the world’s grandest turkey neck (Ian McNeice) who reveals to him that you can speak to dead people if you arrange your computer monitors and VCRs just so. Keaton stops by the guy’s place to check out the dead-people-talking-on-the-radio thing, hears his wife’s voice through a bunch of static, and becomes obsessed. One trip to Best Buy later, and he’s all hooked up with many blessed Sony products to assist him in attempts to chat with his dead wife.
Of course, complications ensue, and things happen that aren’t really explained at all because this is a horror film, so it’s allowed to be shallow and stupid. Some “bad people” on the other side like to cross into our world and turn people into pretzels, and good people here take headers off of apartment terraces because … well … I really don’t know why they do this, but it sure does look painful.
Keaton’s experimentation with death chats somehow crosses over into crime solving, as his wife makes proclamations such as “Go now!” and “Jonathan, please!” and “Man, Katharine Hepburn’s over here, and she’s looking like shit! Spencer Tracy is nowhere to be found, so I bet she’s pissed!” Jonathan heeds his wife’s words, does in fact “go now!” and manages to save a few lucky souls like a paranormal, psychic Batman.
It’s no wonder that Keaton is fighting hard for a Beetlejuice sequel. After this and First Daughter, his career is officially sucking. But hey, Herbie: Fully Loaded, with Lindsay Lohan, is on the boards for Mikey, so things are looking up. Ride Lindsay’s coattails back to the land of success.
The film does have a couple of good jolt scares, but a couple of good jolt scares do not a decent horror movie make. And I’m sick of the whole Poltergeist rip-off, ghosts-in-the television-sets thing. There’s nothing in your TV except wires and tubes and stuff. Aunt Gladys isn’t hanging out in the static waiting to deliver her apple pie recipe through guttural, deathly moans. See, there’s proof that this movie sucks. I’ve sunk to talking about dead women sharing pie recipes from the afterlife.
So there you have it: 2005’s first stinker, and we’re only two weeks in. Not a very promising start to the year, but at least we know we’re getting a new Batman movie, sans Keaton, in six months. Dammit, that’s three Batman references. I’m really pressing my luck.