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The spooky frequency

The movie year begins not with a bang but with the crackle of radio static in White Noise (PG-13), a supernatural thriller and the first studio release of 2005. Let's hope that Universal Pictures' decision to withhold the film from critical eyes until after Weekend's deadline isn't a tell-tale sign about the movie, or the year.

White Noise stars Michael Keaton, right, as Jonathan Rivers, a widower raising two children alone, when he thinks he hears his dead wife's voice coming from an ill-tuned radio. Sounds like a good reason to subscribe to a satellite radio service. But it's also an excuse for a movie in which other deceased folks crowd the ethereal microphone, and some of their messages aren't friendly.

Niall Johnson's screenplay is based on something called "electronic voice phenomena" or EVP, which professional ghost researchers swear exists. Bridging the mortal and spirit worlds isn't new for Keaton, as anyone who ever said "Beetlejuice" three times can testify. But don't expect to hear Day-O channeled through possessed humans here. A review of White Noise will be published Friday on Page 2B.

_ STEVE PERSALL, Times film critic