Saturday, June 20, 2009

But did the spirits get their converter boxes for digital signals?

Universal produced two films where supernatural entities communicate with the living through electronic signals. Although each film has a different idea as to what is communicating from the Great Beyond, I think they will be entertaining to lovers of ghost movies, despite their flawed endings. This goes double if you're a regular listener of late-night syndicated wackiness that is "Coast to Coast AM."

White Noise (2004)
Starring: Michael Keaton and Chandra West
Director: Geoffrey Sax
Rating: Five of Ten Stars

Jonathan Rivers (Michael Keaton) is a greiving husband who starts receiving messages from his dead wife through the electronic white noise of untuned televisions and radios. He soon discovers that she is alerting him to unfolding tragedies that he can prevent... but, unfortunately for Jonathan, there are also more sinister entities reaching out to him.

Although a bit slow moving, this isn't a bad little ghost movie. It would have been better if the filmmakers had bothered to provide a few possibilities/theories about what the evil entities in the film were. Whatever they are, they are clearly able to influence things in the real world... so why can't they stop other spirits from communicating with the living? Or are the other spirits merely illusions created the evil entities to lure unsuspecting people into traps and/or to do their bidding?

As it is, there isn't even a hint of a theory anywhere in the film. As such, the ending is somewhat disatisfying, and it's made even worse by an idiotic, tacked-on "gotcha" ending. The movie was over when the SUV goes over the hill from the cemetary, and the filmmakers should have rolled credits at that point. (And you will be left with a far better vieweing experience if you stop the DVD when the car crests the hill.)

White Noise 2: The Light (2007)
Starring: Nathan Fillion, Katee Sackhoff, and Adrian Holmes
Director: Patrick Lussier

After a Near Death Experience, Abe (Fillion) gains the ability not only to see ghosts, but to see a "light" around those who are about to die. When he uses this ability to save those who are fated to die, he discovers that there is a high price to for interfering with the Divine Plan.

"White Noise 2: The Light" is an atmospheric horror film that for much of its running time plays like the sort of stories you hear on George Noori's "Coast to Coast" broadcast, what with its main character causing electrical lights to flicker when he walks down the street, with dead spirits communicating with the living through televisions and radios, and pre-destiny clashing with free will.

For most of its running time, the film does an admirable job of casting a pall of dread across all the proceedings. Even when things seem to be going in Abe's favor, there is enough foreshadowing and creepy ghost-vision stuff going on that the viewer knows things are going to end badly and this knowledge keeps the tension high. Nice camerawork and sound design, tight editing, and a solid script peformed by some very talented actors all add up to an entertaining experience.

Well, at least until the film actually reaches its final act. Then things start falling apart a bit, as the movie starts to go over the top with effects and gets outright silly with a sequence of an ambulance barreling toward a bus load of people stopped near a fuel tanker. It's "Final Destiny" level of silliness but with a fairly sensible (if you buy into the film's underlying view of life, death, and the hereafter.) The end of the film is almost completely flubbed.

Despite falling apart at the end, "White Noise 2: The Light" is better than its direct-to-DVD release implies, and it's worth checking out if you like atmospheric horror films... and if you're a regular consumer of the sort of information that "Coast to Coast AM" promulgates.

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