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PCR # 251  (Vol. 6, No. 2)  This edition is for the week of January 10--16, 2005.

This Week's PCR
Movie Review
"White Noise"

Movie review by:
Nolan B. Canova
Two and a half stars

Movies are rated 0 to 4 stars

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Brightlight Pictures/Universal     
Starring: Michael Keaton, Chandra West, Deborah Kara Unger, Ian McNiece
Directed by: Geoffrey Sax
Written by: Niall Johnson
Rated: PG 13
Running Time: 1 hour 41 minutes

I've been a big fan of the paranormal all my life and I'm up pretty up to date on its history and "mythology". Notice I said "fan" (not necessarily "believer") and "mythology" (not necessarily "facts"). I think researchers have come a long way on both sides of most paranormal issues separating little fact from mountains of fiction.

The subject at hand is the phenomenon of E.V.P. or "Electronic Voice Phenomenon", the experience of hearing voices of the dead on recorded tape (or, in some instances, the telephone). It is generally acknowledged that the earliest known experiments in EVP were those of Thomas Edison, who was working on a device to accomplish communication with the dead toward the end of his life (without success). Later, researchers claimed all kinds of wild success stories, some with extremely interesting potential, if true.

Basically it works like this: if one wishes to communicate with non-corporal beings, one must find something on this plane of reality with which they can interact and manipulate to show signs they're there. Frequently, reseachers take tape recorders into graveyards and such, and leave the tape running as they converse normally. Later, they listen for, and sometimes discover, unaccounted for extra voices on the tape. Until recently, this (and the related phone calls phenomenon) were all I'd remembered of electronic voice phenomenon.

Then it surfaced that allegedly (emphasis on "allegedly"), a scientist in the '40s or '50s managed to faciliate communcation with a deceased colleague via "white noise", or loud electronic radio static, similar to the sound of a snowy TV. These communications were recorded on audio tape. It's ugly and noisy, but intelligible. These were never accessed from TV noise, these were always audio-only recordings.

On to the show. Micheal Keaton is Jonathan Rivers, a happily married professional man whose wife Anna (Chandra West) is a best-selling author. They have one child, a little boy. Life is good and normal and on the up-and-up for the Rivers until one day Anna doesn't return home from a casual social visit. Her car is later found next to a river bank where evidently she slipped on the rocks while trying to change a tire and apparently drowned.

Grief-stricken and now a single parent, Jonathan tries to pick up the pieces of his shattered life. Days/weeks later he is approached by a strange man named Raymond Price (Ian McNiece) who claims Anna has been communicating with him from the "other side" (this is a bit of a revelation as Anna's body was never found). At first rejecting the claim outright, later Jonathan is haunted by cellphone calls seemingly originating from Anna's old cellphone. Curious and hopeful, he changes his mind about Mr. Price and looks him up. There, he finds a labyrinth of electronic equipment, mostly TVs on blank static channels that occasionally pick up "the other side". Price shows him tantalizing evidence that Anna's soul survived death. It is also here Jonathan meets another grief-stricken spouse, Sarah Tate (Deborah Kara Unger).

So where do we go from here? Good question. We spend most of the rest of the film squinting at the same snowy TV screens as Jonathan trying to see something. This becomes an obsession with Jonathan (similar to Roy Neary's in Close Encounters complete with the small son who wonders if everything's OK with dad) as Jonathan spends hours and days looking at TV static. When he does get fairly reliable communication, Anna turns from wife to private eye, warning Jonathan about life-threatening situations he can avert. Dark elements from the shadow world of TV static jump out and interfere occasionally, but otherwise seem inserted to break up the monotony.

What do you think of E.V.P. and the film "White Noise"?
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  • Michael Keaton is great in everything he does, here he is doing the best he can with servicable, but confusing material. Deborah Kara Unger is set up as a victim early in the game, and the most interesting character, Raymond Price, doesn't get nearly enough screen time. There is pretty good suspense in this film, but not much payoff.

    I am fascinated by the subject of audio anomalies, like backwards speech and voices of the dead. Unfortunately, this subject is never truly explored in White Noise. If you were never a big fan of the paranormal, this film may intrigue you initially with a cool premise, but ultimately leave you in the dust with a "what-the-hell-was-that-all-about" kind of feeling.

    On a scale of zero-to-four stars I give White Noise  Two and a half stars

    This week's movie review of "White Noise" is ©2005 by Nolan B. Canova.  All graphics this page are creations of Nolan B. Canova, ©2005, all rights reserved. All contents of "Nolan's Pop Culture Review" are ©2005 by Nolan B. Canova.