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HTF HD-DVD Review: White Noise

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Neil Middlemiss, Jan 30, 2008.

  1. Neil Middlemiss

    Neil Middlemiss Producer
    Reviewer

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    White Noise




    Studio: Universal Studios
    Year: 2005
    US Rating: Rated PG-13 for Violence, Disturbing Images and Language.
    Film Length: 1hr 48 minutes
    Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
    Video Resolution/Codec: 1080p/VC-1
    Audio: English Dolby TrueHD 5.1, English and French Dolby Digital Plus 5.1
    Subtitles: Optional English SDH, French, Spanish




    US Release Date: January 8, 2007

    The Film - [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG] out of [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]

    “…you know, you shouldn't, you shouldn't be trying this by yourself, it's not safe. It's like homemade ouji boards, and and teenage séances at Halloween. E.V.P. is not good; you have to understand that we spend years developing our relationships with our guides so that we can protect you…”

    The paranormal and supernatural realm consists of endless theories, ideas and fields of expertise of varying levels of credibility and for a list of what the supernatural world has to offer, a quick glimpse through all the topics that the X-Files explored in its nine year run would be a good start. But with each concept comes an endless branching of ways to tell tales that fall within that paranormal or supernatural realm.

    White Noise falls somewhere between serious thriller and Saturday night sci-fi channel pulp. It joins a pretty healthy batch of films that surfaced after the incredible success of M. Night Shyamalan’s The Sixth Sense. Among the notable entries in the genre are films like Dragonfly, and The Mothman Prophecies. What is common about these films and White Noise is there ability to attract Hollywood talent. The stories usually follow the same path and this time around, it is Michael Keaton who steps into the familiar shoes of the person whose life is turned upside down by a tragic event and who slowly becomes absorbed into a line of discovery that veers off the beaten path; treading into ‘the other side’ of what most consider normality.

    Michael Keaton stars as Jonathan Rivers, an architect and happy husband and father. When his wife disappears one night and is later discovered dead, he becomes enveloped by his grief. When he is approached by a stranger claiming to have been contacted by his late wife, he is dismissive. However, the need to know about his wife and his struggle with grief move him to contact this stranger, and find out what he has to say. It is then that White Noise explores E.V.P – Electronic Voice Phenomena – the recording by simple electronic devices of communications purportedly from the dead.

    The story follows a well trodden path that, from the outset, never really tries to reinvent the framework within which it crafts its story. But the idea that forms the basis of the story is intriguing enough to buy it some capitol to keep the viewer engaged. The general concept of E.V.P is introduced pre-credits via title cards as necessary education, and is reinforced through the film to help E.V.P earn some credibility and helps increase the entertainment value of the film. For any of these movies to grab you, there has to be a level of believability to the premise or it doesn’t work; something that, even if not true, rings true for the purpose of suspending your disbelief.

    The films that have at least some potential of being real are always more engaging than films that exists purely for scares and jumps alone. While films like Final Destination and Boogeyman are entertaining, without the grounding in reality, like the incredibly affecting Exorcism of Emily Rose, they pale in comparison.

    Director Geoffrey Sax and Director of Photography Chris Seager work hard to create the appropriate atmosphere in the film, but it doesn’t quite reach the eerie or disquieting feel of Gore Verbinski’s The Ring or Mark Pellington’s moody Mothman Prophecies. But this is a film that has a better production value than its relatively small budget would seem to be able to create, and for that, they must be congratulated.

    The cast is generally strong, with Deborah Kara Unger, as a fellow explorer of E.V.P, doing well here. Keaton was an interesting choice in this role and a little bit of a surprise as this is not how I generally picture him. But the performances are strong enough to be better than the average thriller of this kind.

    White Noise is a good, solid paranormal thriller – but it isn’t without its problems. For instance, Keaton’s character is able to finely tune to the signals from the other side a little too quickly and the story introduces a number of elements without appropriate clarity. There are also weaknesses in the script and the movie finds itself meandering at times. But when the film changes gear from investigative exploration to creepy and chilling scares, a lot of the issues fall by the wayside and it finishes out with real excitement.





    The Video - [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG] out of [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]

    The quality of Universal Studios HD-DVD catalogue releases of late have been very good indeed and White Noise is no different. Presented in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1, 1080p and encoded VC-1, the image shows off a lot of fine details with good color balance. The crisp edges and clarity of the image really show off Keaton’s age, especially early in the film. But some softness and murky scenes (where light is almost completely absent) hurt the quality from achieving a great status.

    This is obviously the best that this film has looked (outside of the theater), notably the clarity of the three ghostly figures reflected in Keaton’s eye towards the end of the film. Fans of the film would do well to upgrade.





    The Sound - [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG] out of [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]

    Universal Studios brings White Noise to the High Definition medium with an English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track as well as English and French Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 options.

    White Noise is a film that works with a somewhat subdued sound design, one that reminds me of the ethereal ambience throughout The Mothman Prophecies. For the most part, it supports the film. With some solid bass and effective surround effects employed at the right times, it helps with the jumps and goose bumps, but something is lacking. Perhaps the effort to subdue the sound field works a little too well at times because it seems flat. The center channel, containing the bulk of the dialogue is clean and distortion free and the LFE does a good job.




    The Extra’s - [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG] out of [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]

    Feature Commentary with Director Geoffrey Sax and Actor Michael Keaton: – The audio commentary for this film was recorded while the director and star where on different continents, watching the film at the same time. Perhaps that isolation, then, is the reason the commentary is slow at times with some long moments of silence. The director provides most of the input and, towards the end, the only input. But what is shared is good. The director discusses the changing color palette through the film, from warm and happy colors in the set and costume when Keaton’s idyllic life is intact, to harsher, blacks and grey tones as he descends into grief and then the rigorous pursuit of contacting his dead wife.

    Michael Keaton, when he does provide commentary, shows off a good wit and helps the director recognize scenes that were changed from the way they were originally conceived in the script.

    Making Contact: E.V.P Experts: – (8:42) – This is prime material for a sci-fi channel ‘report’ – and that’s not a bad thing. Here the phenomenon of E.V.P is explored through conversations with ‘experts’ – people who are dedicated to the pursuit of understanding the mysteries of electronic voice phenomena. This nearly nine minute featurette contains purported recordings of the dead. The discussions with such staunch believers make it hard to tell if what they have is indisputable proof or merely interpretations fueled by hope run awry.

    Recording the Afterlife At Home: – (4:25) – A quick little ‘how-to’ for setting yourself up to record E.V.P yourself.

    Hearing is Believing: Actual E.V.P Sessions – (14:33) – This is an interesting featurette that is a little hard to swallow at times given the somewhat melodramatic tone. But, nonetheless, the attempts to capture the voices of the dead at a couple of sites with strong ‘ghostly’ histories, proves entertaining.



    Final Thoughts

    Supernatural thrillers, even the bad ones, seem to have something that makes me want to keep watching. That doesn’t mean I can’t tell the good from the bad (the wheat from the chaff), but it does mean that I will happily sit through almost anything with an ‘other-worldly’ flavor. White Noise is actually quite enjoyable. A flawed but earnest attempt to tell its story. It tries hard to find the ever elusive emotional resonance that is missing from scary movies. It has some great goose bump moments and finishes with a satisfying finale. All in all, pretty good!




    Overall Score - [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG] out of [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]



    Neil Middlemiss
    Kernersville, NC
     
  2. Sam Posten

    Sam Posten Moderator
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    Neil, thanks for covering this one for me, sounds like ya enjoeyed it so everyone wins! I will definitly be checking this one out someday!
     

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