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Universal Studios Home Video presents
White Noise (2005)

"They can't all be nice."
- Raymond Price (Ian McNeice)

Review By: Rich Rosell   
Published: June 15, 2005

Stars: Michael Keaton, Deborah Kara Unger
Other Stars: Ian McNeice, Chandra West, Ian McNeice, Connor Tracy, Sarah Strange, Nicholas Elia, Mike Dopud, Amber Rothwell
Director: Geoffrey Sax

Manufacturer: Deluxe Digital Studios
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for violence, disturbing images and language
Run Time: 01h:37m:56s
Release Date: May 17, 2005
UPC: 025192693120
Genre: horror


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B+ B-B+A- B

DVD Review

When successful author Anna Rivers (Chandra West) vanishes and eventually is found dead in a river in the supernatural thriller White Noise, her grief-stricken husband Jonathan (Michael Keaton) has trouble getting any kind of closure, and things get weirder when he notices a strange man following him one day. Jonathan confronts his apparent stalker, who turns out to be Raymond Price (Ian McNeice), a portly chap who claims that Anna has been communicating with him from beyond "the other side."

Price, it turns out, is a believer in E.V.P., or Electronic Voice Phenomenon, where the dead apparently have the ability to record creepy bursts of their static-y voices and images on audio and video tape. Jonathan avoids the advice of a blind psychic (never a good move) and becomes more than a casual observer of the cryptic E.V.P. messages, and he joins forces with a similarly grieving bookstore owner (Deborah Kara Unger) when they realize that a trio of very evil dead things have the ability to crossover over into the living world.

Director Geoffrey Sax stages White Noise with a now familiar PG-13 visual approach similar to the look of modern Japanese-influenced The Ring-like horror and a bit of a nod to Poltergeist's iconic fuzzy television screen, which means a wealth of quick-cuts of creepy, shadowy figures uttering vague, mysterious phrases and lots of loud static that provide plenty of recurring jump scares. The effect might be cheap—and Sax uses it very often here—and at some point you find yourself bracing for it because you know that just about every quiet scene is leading up to a sudden blast of otherworldly communicating.

And it was nice to see Keaton back in a lead role tackling something more substantive than playing a reincarnated snowman (Jack Frost), and though he spends much of his time having to make furrowed expressions while listening to disembodied voices, his portrayal seems genuine. There are the typical small Keaton flashes of smirky wit, more so early on before things get dangerous, and he carries himself with a relatable "everyman" persona that is likeable, and I'm glad to see that he can still carry a film.

Sax has White Noise build nicely as an enjoyable jump scare thriller to what turns out to be an unfortunately confusing third act (why does that always happen?) that suddenly lurches off the rails, with Keaton's character feverishly deciphering clues that lead to a CG-encounter and reveal that makes no logical sense, and seems to exist only because films like this demand big CG payoffs.

I can gloss over the fact that E.V.P. researcher Price stresses how rare it is to capture sounds, and that in no time Jonathan is recording all sorts of relevant things—to say nothing of something that occurs during the final scene that seems to indicate it's a fairly common thing—but I guess Keaton's character just has to have something to do.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B-

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: White Noise comes in a smart-looking 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer, and for a film with such a shadowy look, there gladly isn't much to nitpick about. Black levels are rock solid, and image clarity even in the darkest sequences is sharp and detailed. Fleshtones hold up well, looking natural and lifelike, with colors (even the overprocessed stuff) remaining rich and evenly saturated.

Image Transfer Grade: B+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital
5.1
English, Spanishyes


Audio Transfer Review: The 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround track provides an enjoyable level of aural theatrics for a creepy good time, enhancing the film with an aggressive and active mix that features deep, resonant bass and enough discrete rear channel cues to sell Sax's jump scares. A Spanish language 5.1 track is also included.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 20 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
3 Other Trailer(s) featuring Assault on Precinct 13, Casino, Northern Exposure
5 Deleted Scenes
3 Featurette(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Geoffrey Sax, Michael Keaton
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: Extras start a commentary track from director Geoffrey Sax and actor Michael Keaton, in which the pair discuss things like shooting in Vancouver and recruiting local talent in between fairly long silent gaps. Keaton is open and honest about what he considers a scene that features a "lazy performance" by him, and touches on the need for audiences to "buy the premise, buy the joke" to enjoy the film. Sax points out a few instances of foreshadowing that slipped past me, and though these aren't major reveals, they are somewhat interesting.

A set of five Deleted Scenes (09m:37s), including a more graphic plummet from a high rise and the original third act sequence that was cut to keep a PG-13 rating, are available with optional commentary from director Sax. The latter is the one scene that is the most pivotal of the lot, and it actually manages to sell the plot twist far more clearly.

The rest of the extras forsake the usual EPK stuff in favor of three featurettes outlining the allegedly real-life occurrences of E.V.P. Making Contact: E.V.P. Experts (08m:43s) follows a group of E.V.P. devotees, and includes some quick clips of sound recordings supposedly made by dead people. Recording the Afterlife at Home (04m:28s) offers tips on how to do it yourself, and Hearing Is Believing: Actual E.V.P. Sessions (14m:34s) follows a pair of researchers attempting to make contact. Creepy or funny, depending on your mindset.

The disc is cut into 20 chapters, with optional subtitles in English or Spanish.

Extras Grade: B

 

Final Comments

White Noise looks and sounds good, with Michael Keaton handily returning to lead actor status in a sometimes creepy supernatural horror flick about communicating with the dead.

Like a lot of films in this genre, it falls apart at the end, but the journey up to that point is fun, especially if your sound system is up to snuff.

 


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