Universal // 2007 // 99 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Ben Saylor (Retired) // February 8th, 2008
Sometimes they don't come back alone.
The 2005 movie White Noise didn't exactly cry out for a sequel, but that's never stopped the film industry before, which is why White Noise 2 hit stores last fall. (It went straight to DVD in the U.S., but according to IMDb, it appears to have been theatrically released abroad.) This new film, directed by Patrick Lussier (Dracula 2000), is only tenuously connected to the original. Electronic voice phenomenon (EVP), which was the original movie's big concept, only figures into the sequel a little. With White Noise 2, the new gimmick is the near-death experience (NDE), like the one our hero, Abe Dale (Nathan Fillion, Waitress), goes through. Dale is distraught over the recent murder of his wife and child (Kendal Cross and Joshua Ballard, respectively) and decides to take his own life, although not before changing the outgoing message on his answering machine to reflect this choice. While in the hospital, the doctors lose Dale (and the movie lost this court) as he is plunged into a ludicrous tunnel rendered by some rather unspectacular special effects. When he is revived and discharged from the hospital (despite the fact that he attempted suicide and in fact died, he is apparently allowed to go on home), he begins seeing the white light on people. Soon, Dale realizes that he can foresee people's deaths. Naturally, he feels a compulsion to save these people, which, as anyone who has seen a Final Destination movie knows by now, is not a good idea.
I do give Lussier and screenwriter Matt Venne credit for taking White Noise 2 in a different direction than its predecessor; as much as I enjoy watching Nathan Fillion (and I'm not being sarcastic with that), I don't know how thrilled I would have been to watch him stare at static-y TV screens for extended periods of time like poor Michael Keaton did for large chunks of the original. Unfortunately, the direction the filmmakers chose to take the movie in wasn't a whole lot better. The foreseeing-death-and-altering-the-future thing has been done, well, to death, in plenty of other movies and TV shows before White Noise 2. Even so, this movie had potential, but rather than explore the ramifications of such powers, Lussier and Venne go for the ghost-around-every-corner route, and in doing so make a scary movie that is never all that scary. Worse, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense. The messy stew Lussier and Venne concoct includes plenty of different ghosts who don't seem at all connected to characters in the story (including a red coat-wearing tyke who's straight out of Don't Look Now) as well as numerical and linguistic codes that brought back painful memories of not only The Number 23 but The Da Vinci Code, as well. Double ouch.
White Noise 2's sole trump card lies with its two leads: Nathan Fillion and Katee Sackhoff (Battlestar Galactica). The latter plays a nurse who attends to Dale when he's in the hospital, and she's also saved by Dale later on. I like Firefly and Serenity but have never seen Battlestar Galactica, but if this casting isn't a fanboy's dream, I don't know what is. Going into the movie, I wondered how Fillion would come off; besides Malcolm Reynolds, the only other character I've seen him play is the doctor in Waitress. He was fine in that movie, but I still wasn't sure how Fillion would fare in a role that didn't require him to steadily deliver stylized wisecracks. I have to say, he acquits himself nicely in White Noise 2. Granted, this role doesn't really involve a lot of heavy lifting, but Fillion still gives a sturdy performance that is better than the material given to him.
Sackhoff, on the other hand, gets the short end of the stick, as her character is written as an extremely spunky, outgoing kind of gal, and well...that's about it. Oh sure, there's some stuff thrown in about her deceased husband and all that jazz, but mainly, she's excessively friendly and prone to inserting words like "dude" and "totally" into her speech. That being said, Sackhoff is charming in the role, but I wish the filmmakers had dug deeper with her character.
The look and sound of White Noise 2 are both fine; I can't think of any major complaints. For extras, there are around 30 minutes of deleted scenes. Most of them would not have helped the movie (particularly a laughable sequence where Dale's buddy, played by Adrian Holmes, spouts some Philosophy 101 words of wisdom to Dale shortly after his wife and child's death), and it's just as well that this material was left on the cutting room floor. Up next is "Exploring the Near-Death Experience," which runs about 14 minutes and features interviews with people who have had NDEs and people who are said to be experts on the subject. What enjoyment you derive out of this depends largely on whether you place any stock in this sort of thing. After that is "The Making of White Noise 2," which is a standard-issue promotional featurette (Fillion even makes a reference to EPK at the beginning of it) and runs eight minutes. The best part of it is when Fillion and Sackhoff discuss probable outcomes of a hypothetical Mal-Starbuck showdown. Finally, there is "Journey Into Madness," a short featurette in which location production assistant Barbara Copp and Fillion go around in the mental hospital location used for some of the film's scenes. Evidently the location is used frequently in movies and is said to be haunted. This short, however, plays the whole thing for laughs. I would have been more interested to hear about the building's history and what movies were filmed there, although it was neat to see a P.A. get the spotlight a little. There is also a collection of previews that run before the disc's main menu.
Director Patrick Lussier and screenwriter Matt Venne get points for trying to take a sequel in a new and different direction, but ultimately, while I certainly don't think White Noise 2 ever had the chance to be a great movie, it could have been a good one, which it is not. Fans of the leads (particularly Fillion) will probably not be disappointed by the acting here, but as for the movie itself, well, don't say I didn't warn you.
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Scales of Justice
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
Running Time: 99 Minutes
Release Year: 2007
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
* Deleted scenes
* Exploring the Near-Death Experience
* The Making of White Noise 2
* Journey Into Madness