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Ignore this "Noise'

Don't be confused by the title: Today's White Noise, sadly, isn't Barry Sonnenfeld's forthcoming adaptation of the revered 1985 Don DeLillo novel. This one, directed by British television veteran Geoffrey Sax, is an occult thriller based on pseudo science.

Mostly cheesy, occasionally spooky, this film owes something to The Ring (bad things happen when you watch videos) and Frequency (how to use your radio to contact the living dead), with a little Final Destination (a man receives information about others' impending deaths) thrown in.

Scenes of domestic tranquility open White Noise, as Jonathan Rivers (Michael Keaton), his wife, Anna (Chandra West), and Mike (Nicholas Elia), Jon's young son from his first marriage, prepare for the day. He's a successful architect. She's a big-time novelist on the way to a meeting with her publisher.

Anna, as trailers have helpfully revealed, is a dead woman walking. Several warning signs: her new book is titled The Eternal Wait; she's just discovered she's pregnant with the couple's first child; she makes an unplanned trip to a friend's house; and she leaves reassuring messages on the couple's telephone answering machine.

One more: At 2:30 a.m., as Jonathan waits for Anna's return from her night out, the power mysteriously flickers off and on, and the radio suddenly comes to life, blasting white noise (or static).

Rivers' grief turns into an obsession. Six months after his wife's death, he has relocated from the suburbs to a gleaming glass-and-steel apartment in the big city, but he's still stuck in the past. The grieving husband finally gives in to an impulse to visit Raymond Price (Ian McNeice).

Price is a true believer in Electronic Voice Phenomena, he explains. "I'm not a clairvoyant," says Price, who has been talking to ghosts for 23 years, since the death of his 12-year-old son. "I'm not a medium. I don't contact the dead. The dead contact me."

Rivers is gradually drawn into Price's world, a place where TV snow and tuning the radio somehow open a portal into the Great Beyond. Before long, Rivers is all glassy-eyed, spending every waking hour before a battery of video monitors. His codependent in this relationship is Sara Tate (Deborah Kara Unger, Thirteen), a woman who consulted Price shortly after her fiance died; she's hooked on EVP.

Little Mike, who stumbles onto the TV cartoon Casper the Friendly Ghost while channel surfing (the sole comic touch in an otherwise humorless movie), asks if his dad is going to be okay. Clearly, he's not, and that's why White Noise tanks somewhere around the midpoint: Average Joe becomes Mr. Wacko, and who wants to identify with that guy?

Those willing to suspend disbelief might find Sax's film a reasonably scary good time. Others should heed the urgently whispered exhortations of a concerned voice from the other side: "Go now."


White Noise

Grade: C

Director: Geoffrey Sax

Cast: Michael Keaton, Chandra West, Deborah Kara Unger, Ian McNeice, Sarah Strange, Nicholas Elia

Screenplay: Niall Johnson

Rating: PG-13; profanity

Running time: 101 min.