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After the disappearance and confirmed death of his novelist wife, Anna, Jonathan Rivers is shocked to learn that he can keep in touch with her via recordings of imperfect TV, radio and cell phone reception. Sure, it’s not the clearest signal, but he doesn’t have to dial 9 to get out and there are no roaming charges to the afterlife (which can really add up). The grieving widower is introduced to this supernatural concept by Raymond Price, a man who lost his son and dedicated his life to helping others find peace. He captures brief messages from their deceased loved ones and passes them along. [Warning: Some plot points revealed]
Not everyone approves of people decoding EVP (Electronic Voice Phenomenon). Some people say it’s dangerous. Then there are those spooky, faceless entities that resent unwanted company and human interference. They get jumpy when Anna’s disembodied spirit, which has an inside track on fatalities about to occur in the natural realm, attempts to save those lives by contacting Jonathan. So, while Jonathan and another of Price’s clients, Sarah Tate, bird-dog Anna’s fuzzy clues, those shadowy figures who inhabit the static grow menacing. And as the film’s plot draws to a muddled, implausible close, Jonathan finally realizes he’s dealing with powers beyond his control.
Jonathan and Anna share a sweet relationship enriched by the news that she’s pregnant. He also has a young son from his first marriage whom he adores. When Anna disappears, her husband refuses to give up hope. Throughout, Raymond and Jonathan are committed to helping others, and risk their own safety to fulfill what each considers a calling.
Supernatural weirdness appears in practically every scene, and is treated as legitimate within the context of the story. A girl whose mother died in childbirth mentions that her grandmother has resorted to séances in an attempt to contact the woman. Dead people “reach out and touch” loved ones via electronic static, usually to let them know they’re happy on the other side. However, some spirits spew anger, and even step into the mortal realm to harass eavesdroppers. A palm-reading psychic warns Jonathan to stop examining EVP and leave ethereal communication to the experts (“It’s one thing to contact the dead; it’s another to meddle”).
As the living and dead cooperate to thwart fate, three things become apparent; a) “Mr. Death” is ultimately in control, b) he has a quota, and c) he doesn’t appreciate last-minute heroics that throw off his schedule. God doesn’t seem to have much to do with those affairs unless one accepts the notion that it’s a divine force that allows Jonathan and Anna to talk in the first place (which would be inconsistent with Ecc. 9:5-6). Indeed, the film taps into a fundamental human longing to reconnect with those who’ve passed on, but despite the fact that prayers are offered at funerals, toys with a fictional counterfeit that ignores the promises of Scripture.
Before work, Anna walks around in a lacy nightgown that turns her husband on (they kiss passionately). A home movie finds Jonathan zooming in on her denim-clad backside and providing lusty commentary.
A car wreck leaves a woman battered and bloody before a transformer detaches from a telephone pole and plummets into the crumpled vehicle, finishing her off. Demons cause a woman to swan-dive off a balcony several stories high, and later attack a man who falls to his death. Police shoot a killer. Jonathan enters a house that has been ransacked, and stumbles upon a man’s inert body. In several omniscient flashbacks we see a woman experience a broken arm and fatal head trauma. A murderer’s macabre hideout contains instruments of torture.
Crude or Profane Language
There are fewer than a dozen spoken profanities, but they include three s-words and an f-word. Other inappropriate language appears written in a ledger.
Drug and Alcohol Content
Raymond and Jonathan drink wine. Sarah takes a sleeping pill to relax. Jonathan appears to take an over-the-counter headache remedy. While waiting up all night for his wife to return, he polishes off a bottle of wine.
Other Negative Elements
White Noise is a ghost story. It’s also a murder mystery of sorts, though it’s impossible to follow any reasonable trail to the big revelation, which is an incoherent marriage of supernatural shenanigans and serial-killer shtick. Some of the violence is disturbing. But perhaps the bigger issue for Christian families is Hollywood’s ongoing fascination with Sixth Sense-style chat sessions (exploited in recent TV shows such as Medium and Tru Calling) that seek answers from the dearly departed. As Ecclesiastes 9:5-6 points out, “the dead know nothing ... never again will they have a part in anything that happens under the sun.” So leave them alone. And dial down the White Noise.
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
Michael Keaton as Jonathan Rivers; Chandra West as Anna Rivers; Deborah Kara Unger as Sarah Tate; Ian McNeice as Raymond Price
Geoffrey Sax ( )