White Noise: The Light (2007) / Horror-Thriller
aka White Noise 2
MPAA Rated: PG-13 for violence, disturbing images, and language
Running Time: 99 min.
Cast: Nathan Fillion, Katee Sackhoff, Craig Fairbrass, Kendall Cross, Adrian Holmes, Aaron Pearl, Teryl Rothery
Director: Patrick Lussier
Screenplay: Matt Venne
You might wonder how a film like White Noise, which was trashed nearly unanimously by critics at the time of its release in January of 2005, could ever produce a sequel. I know I do. Turns out that the original film, budgeted at about $10 million, made about five times that in US box office gross alone. I guess the thinking is that, if it made money, a sequel should naturally follow. I think that's very misguided in this case, as White Noise benefited financially by being a horror release at a time when there weren't many other options, not because people loved it. Very few who'd seen it would likely watch it again, and of those, practically none have clamored for a sequel.
Even if there were people who did like it enough to purchase it on home video, they will be unlikely to head back to theaters for a second go around, as White Noise 2 isn't even a sequel to the first film at all. The characters are wholly different, as well as the main story. The only thing that ties the two films at all is the notion of EVP, or Electronic Voice Phenomenon, where electronic viewing devices like monitors and televisions provide conduits of communication between the living and the spirit world. Except in this film, they don't really communicate, so really, the only thing similar is the fact that both films are horror-thrillers with a bunch of TVs that show static. Apparently, there is a market for this.
If anything, White Noise 2 plays out more like a rip-off of The Dead Zone, with elements of Yogen, if told with a Final Destination mentality, with its protagonist who suffers from a near-death experience that gives him unique powers to foretell the upcoming deaths of people he sees. The man in this case is Abraham Dale (Fillion, "Firefly"), who loses his wife and son at the hands of a gunman (Fairbrass, The Long Weekend) who shoots them both in cold blood for reasons unknown before emptying another round on himself. Despondent, Abraham tries to take his own life, seeing the infamous "white light" phenomenon that occurs for many who experience a near-death state, and he awakens to find that he can see auras around certain people. He doesn't know why, but soon discovers that those viewed with an aura soon die afterward, knowledge Abe soon uses to try to save them before calamity strikes. Unfortunately, disaster awaits when fate (or Satan, in this case) is denied the souls of intended victims, so Abraham tries to figure out hows and why the powers work in order to try to reverse the trend that ends with even more mortalities when he saves a life.
Whether you're a fan of White Noise or someone who detests it, your ability to be entertained by White Noise 2 resides primarily on your tolerance for the gimmick-laden horror-thrillers of recent years, like The Butterfly Effect and the aforementioned Final Destination series. All of them feature characters that are trying to find a way to cheat death, only to encounter some sort of conundrum as to why they can't quite achieve total success, despite the fact that they do achieve momentary victories over an unknown force. You should know that my tolerance level for these kinds of films are pretty low, as I can't think of one I regard positively (save perhaps Minority Report, if you want to stretch out the scope to include non-horror), but if that's your bag, perhaps you will come away liking the mechanical, derivative pleasures that this tricky, paranormal b-movie has to offer.
Though it stars Serenity's Nathan Fillion, who tends to be best in campy fare for his deadpan, wisecracking delivery, White Noise 2 plays out completely straight-faced and somber. Just as Michael Keaton in the first White Noise, Fillion serves merely as a placeholder hero for the piece, not really utilizing him for his personality strengths except that we have liked him in other vehicles. Katee Sackhoff (Halloween: Resurrection, "Battlestar Galactica") does come along to provide a bit of levity, and perhaps the possibility of an emotional connection, but the development just wasn't there in order to truly connect the characters as anything more than a passing fancy.
As the film is serious, the implausibility factor is inordinately high, as we see Abe encounter those with auras at predictable turns. Perhaps I've led too much of a sheltered life that death doesn't occur whenever I leave the house, but poor Abe seems to have calamity follow wherever he goes, particularly among those he has come to know. Allusions to Abe being some sort of superhero come about, which is an interesting story angle that would have made the film a bit more robust if pursued, but, once again, marketing such a film would prove too difficult, and the script by Matt Venne plays most of it safe by sticking closely to the tried-and-true horror-thriller formula.
White Noise 2 is a wholly derivative thriller that suffers by being far too similar to other movies that aren't particularly great to begin with. Although it could have gone for a more philosophical approach, the direction by Patrick Lussier (Dracula 2000) tries more for the contemporary form of visceral cinema that has nearly suffocated the horror genre into being little more than sensory titillation and visceral jolts, punctuated by needless jump-scares every 10 minutes or so. Ghosts appear right on cue, although their presence in this film is still a complete mystery to me. While it certainly does hold your interest, it isn't half as intelligent as it should have been to stand out in the crowded field of gimmick-laden horror.
I suppose if you want nothing more than something to hold your attention and creep you out from time to time, White Noise: The Light works in a limited fashion. However, viewers looking for a tight plot, intelligent story, and something of substance will find themselves irresistibly drawn to the light of the sun shining outside the theater doors, beckoning them ever more strongly with each passing minute of this inconsequential, noise-filled distraction.
©2007 Vince Leo