Monday, January 28, 2008

[DVD] White Noise (2005)

Now Where Did Alfred Hide My Batsuit

I skipped this in the cinemas for the sole reason that the trailer spooked me out (*hears chants of "chicken"*) but I grabbed this DVD when I saw it at the library, because partly I'm curious about the phenomenon, and partly because it's a long time since I last saw Michael Keaton on screen, given that not all his works, scarce they may be, make it here to Singapore (the last perhaps could be either this, or the new Herbie movie starring Lindsay Lohan, which I also passed over).

And I was pleasantly surprised at the way this movie turned out to be. EVP, or Electronic Voice Phenomenon, may be poo-pooed by skeptics, but the believers actually in all earnestness think they are assisting grieved folks in seeking the closure they are looking for. And their craft, though not perfect, does seem to take up enormous amounts of time in recording, playback and various digital manipulation (hence throwing the doors open that it's subject to meddling). But if for one second, you were to believe it to be true, what then, as you'll probably be spooked out by that possible whisper not within natural audibility, as and when the hair on your back stands.

It might seem like a dabbling with the occult, akin to the Ouija board where you communicate with spirits deliberately to seek answers, and get a response through the movement of a pointer on a board. You'll never escape from either skepticism, or warnings not to participate in games like these, because while there are benign spirits (if you were to believe) in the mold of Casper, then there would be those which are nasty and send you not too sublime, threatening messages to put you at your place.

Michael Keaton plays an established architect Jonathan Rivers, who lost his beloved writer wife Anna Rivers (Chandra West). Looking for closure, he takes up a chance offering by a stranger Raymond Price (Ian McNeice), who exposes him to the world of EVP, and assists him in trying to open the doors of communication to the other/nether side. We follow in Jonathan's quest to get out of his grief, and dive into his obsession to reach out. But alas while the messages start to come through, they seem to be messages of instructions, and this makes him a little bewildered as to what's happening, as well as getting interference from some shadowy figures who seem to want to stop him.

It's easy to understand why this movie wasn't well received, because of the subject matter, and how it all played out to the end. I thought it presented a thriller-mystery relatively well, combined with some elements of the supernatural, without much unnecessary jinks to try and throw you off the track. It's simple in delivery, and effective as well, though it didn't really take a stand on EVP. Also, some might find fault as to say that it really isn't a movie about EVP to begin with, as it skews a little on the phenomenon, but to that I say, whatever it takes to make an entertaining movie.

Much of the movie hinged on Michael Keaton's performance, and it was nice to see him in a lead role again. When you talk about dark obsession, then he's the man, ever since he convinced fanboys that he's the right choice for the Dark Knight. Sharing screen time with him is Deborah Kara Unger as the bookstore owner Sarah, who's also a recent convert to EVP, and who finds herself intricately linked to Jonathan's quest and EVP findings.

It might not deliver enough to spook you out, but in my opinion, it deserved to be rated far better than it was.

The Code 3 DVD From Alliance Entertainment is presented in anamorphic widescreen with no blemishes in its visual transfer, and audio is available in dolby stereo. Subtitles are available in English and Chinese, and scene selection is over 16 chapters.

There are 3 special features in the DVD, each all dealing with Electronic Voice Phenomenon. E.V.P Explored (8:39) contains interviews with various paranormal investigators and EVP practitioners, and it did seem a little spooky when real voice samples recorded were played. Hearing is Believing (14:30) follows Tom and Lisa Butler, EVP practitioners, into a haunted castle and nightclub to explore EVP and to open a door of communication. You get to see how practitioners get to do what they do. Quite informative actually. And lastly, How to Record E.V.P (4:24) tells you that anyone can do it, so long as you have either a cassette recorder with microphone and a counter for reference, or an IC recorder with built in microphone that is voice activated, which brings some immediate advantages such as cutting time on playback, and without the need of supplying some background white noise.

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