Friday, May 18, 2012

Movie Appraisal: White Noise (2005)

I had a very mixed reaction to this movie. It, on some levels, is very competently executed, but on others is simply befuddling. I guess my ultimate thought is that it is a movie that never really needed to exist. It seemed as if it was trying to talk about EVP (Electronic Voice Phenomenon) but really became much more of a ghost or malevolent spirit film by the end. I guess the three malevolent figures could be demons as well. I mean, that right there is hard to get a conclusive thought on. I did somewhat enjoy the film, although, again, I found portions of it to be incredibly unnecessary, which is not a positive.

My biggest complaint would be the persistence of funerals. I have no idea why they kept springing up, but after a while they started to fall very flat, becoming a little too much for this hour and thirty minute movie to handle. The emotional intensity was lost on me after a while, maybe about halfway through the film, maybe a little more, and once it was gone, well, there wasn't much else to care about. Characters kept dying, funerals kept happening, and I stopped caring.

That being said, Michael Keaton is pretty good throughout the movie, and really is the best part of it. I like the idea of the EVP stuff, and the three demonic figures were interesting until the very end. I guess I still don't see the point though. It's just difficult for me to see why the movie ended the way it did or why things happened the way they did. I mean, yes, the "killer" was stopped, but ultimately nothing was solved but that. I think that makes it only a partial story, only a partial victory. So, the movie ends on a down note, which is fine, but also slaps the sacrifices in their faces by showing that no matter what they did they wouldn't stop the three shadow figures, which... okay, I can accept it, but it doesn't make a good conclusion.

So, talking about the movie itself, its plot and such, it really starts out like a weird Michael Keaton romantic comedy. I don't mind that, but it's a really odd way to start a horror movie. 1408 starts a similar way, but really gets so much more effective as the movie progresses whereas White Noise is really only effective towards the middle of the movie when few actual objective facts are known. The feeling of weird romantic comedy never really goes away until maybe the very end of the film. It's the weird bright colors of the cinematography, the slick apartment, and the camera focusing on characters in such a way as to portray a kind of weird romantic comedy effect. I can't explain it fully, but that feeling never truly went away.

White Noise is supposedly a horror movie, but it has very little actual horror. It's not shot like a horror movie as I said above, but that arguably works in its favor, especially at the end of the film when it goes into full horror movie mode. I guess if you like the ending the film is effective, but if you don't, and I fall into that boat, the film really becomes fairly ineffective at bringing across its ultimate points.

I really went into this movie with an opened mind. I had never seen this movie before, nor had I ever learned much about it. I saw a lot of negative reviews for it, but I rarely agree with other reviews, so I figured I'd give it a chance. I liked some of the ideas and some of the execution. The slow beginning was nice as was the middle of the film when everything was still pretty unexplained and spotty. My personal favorite part of the film was when Keaton's character starts reading the old transcripts that state words like "PIG" and "BASTARD" over and over again, trying to tell the EVP investigator, Raymond Price, to give it all up. I don't know why, but I really liked that part of the movie, showing the malevolent entities mixed with an investigation aspect.

My biggest problem was the amounts of deaths in the movie. It really kept me from caring about the characters or sympathizing with them. The lack of characterization in the second half of the film also shows, with most characters being defined with an adjective or two. Very one-dimensional and very flat. All the other major characters really besides Keaton's get shifted to the background and barely make appearances at all. It all feels rather awkward, never really giving enough screentime or care to anybody. I don't know, I guess the feeling that there was a concentration of plot over character didn't work for me. It might have if the characters were insignificant or if there hadn't been more of a focus on characters earlier in the film. Hell, it might have worked if the plot was better, but instead... it just fell very flat for me in general.

All of that being said Michael Keaton is fast becoming one of my favorite actors. The man is an excellent actor, but I feel very strongly that this film didn't let him show off his acting chops which is a real shame.

I also found it strange that most of the victims were women. I mean these demons seem rather woman-specific in their choices of victims. And it seems like it's always men who do the EVP as well. It's a strange kind of sexism that mystifies me. The "killer" is a man listening to the EVP stuff. Keaton's character, Jonathan, does a well, and so does Raymond. All of the other characters are basically female and never really have much or anything to do with the EVP stuff in general except to watch it. Kind of strange. I can't really say anything beyond that. I started noticing it and had no idea why it was chosen to be that way.

I didn't like the ending, not because Keaton's character dies, but because of the way he died. I don't know, mixing bad CGI, another really dumb and unnecessary death, the random killer gunned down by police, and yet another funeral... it felt really strung together and mechanical. I could have predicted it, but if I had it would have been a lot better. It didn't do it for me, hell most of this movie just felt so pointless and ridiculous. I did like parts of it, but overall it left a bad taste in my mouth. I think it's absolutely mediocre, and I also have no idea who this movie could be made for. It's not for the horror audience because it's not scary. It's not for the EVP audience because EVP doesn't work like that at all. AT ALL. So, who was this made for? I have no idea. All I know is that past the halfway point or so the movie really isn't worth watching... maybe a little for the imagery before the climax, with the broken windows of Jonathan's apartment and the three figures darting across a window or two... but mostly the movie isn't really worth it.

1 comment:

  1. Hello again. I remember I went to see this in theaters because the trailer looked really cool but then it turned out to be a plot-driven narrative with a poor plot like you said. Basically felt like somebody thought they had a cool idea but didn't do the research to develop it. Another great review.