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Case Number 12952

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White Noise 2 (HD DVD)

Universal // 2007 // 99 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Kent Dixon (Retired) // February 9th, 2008

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All Rise...

Judge Kent Dixon is pretty sure he's heard EVP messages coming from his toaster telling him to buy more Pop Tarts.

Editor's Note

Our review of White Noise 2, published February 8th, 2008, is also available.

The Charge

Every day in the United States, there are an average of 774 near-death experiences, during which a person is pronounced dead before being resuscitated. For some, a near-death experience brings a spiritual awakening; for others, there is a darker side.

Sometimes they don't come back alone.

Opening Statement

Abe Dale (Nathan Fillion) experiences a seemingly random act of violence as his family is gunned down in cold blood right before his eyes and the gunman then takes his own life. A short while later, overcome by grief, Dale attempts to take his own life. After being resuscitated, Dale realizes he has been through his own near-death experience and finds he can not only hear voices in electronic signals, but also that he can see a glow around anyone who is about to die, giving him the foresight and power to save them. Little does he realize that this powerful gift may come at a devastating price.

Facts of the Case

As humans, many of us wonder what lies beyond the grave. When we die, is that truly the end…kaput…nada…roll credits? For some, religious beliefs and the belief in God provide answers to that question, while other faiths seek enlightenment and reincarnation as a means of immortality. There's no denying that few people have passed beyond death and, if you'll pardon the expression, lived to tell about it. White Noise 2 offers one possible answer when a man returns from death to find he's been blessed with a gift—or is it a curse?

The Evidence

I have a less-than-paranormal connection to Nathan Fillion, beginning with the fact that we both call Edmonton, Alberta, Canada home. While I was pursuing my undergraduate degree in the early '90s, he and I were in the same drama class, and I still remember some very fun improv work we did together that left the rest of the class in stitches. We were also both in the 60-member choir at our university and ended up billeting together on one of our concert tours. More recently, as my family traveled home from California last spring, our paths crossed in the Seattle airport. After he got over the initial shock of my "hey Nathan," where he obviously thought "great, another crazy fan," we got caught up, discussed his work with Joss Whedon, and he shared his preference for never working on a Fox series ever again.

I follow Nathan's career with great interest, likely due to our connection from long ago, and I can't help but wonder why he hasn't really broken into the upper echelon of film actors. Sure, he started his career with an appearance in Saving Private Ryan, appeared in several episodes of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, anchored the cast of Firefly, and is now a regular on Desperate Housewives, but I keep hoping he'll really break through one day. To this day, I honestly think the film and TV industry has little to do with talent for the most part.

My oldest brother made his living as an actor in Vancouver in the mid to late '90s, realizing some moderate success from speaking roles in several episodes of The X-Files and other TV series, to an on-screen role in Lake Placid with Bridget Fonda and Bill Pullman; ultimately, he had to release that dream for another career path. It's the experiences of truly gifted actors like my brother and Nathan Fillion that prove to me that even those with considerable skill and talent can often struggle, while their often less-talented peers seem to rise to the top of the heap.

In the past year, I've been encouraged to see Nathan appearing in several surprising places, including an appearance in a single episode of Lost and now White Noise 2, the direct-to-video sequel to the 2005 Michael Keaton project White Noise. "Direct-to-video" is a phrase often used to describe a project that was too good for TV, but not good enough for a theatrical release. With all the garbage that seems to end up on the big screen these days, I find it interesting that a relatively strong production like this didn't make it to the multiplexes.

Electronic Voice Phenomena (EVP) refers to the supposed manifestation of paranormal audio signals through cell phones, computers, tape recorders, and other electronic devices. The concept that the living can be contacted "from beyond" taps into a fundamental need to know there is something else beyond our world and that we can still hear from our loved ones after they're gone. Hollywood seems to have a fascination with EVP that dates back to the now iconic TV sequences that appeared in Poltergeist in 1982. To take the basic concept even further, we've seen happy stories where lost souls are put to rest as they are in the TV show Ghost Whisperer to darker tales of possessed VHS tapes, computer screens, and cell phones. Where does White Noise 2 land on this continuum?

The plotline will begin to seem familiar quite quickly, since although this is a new film, the plot structure of "hero receives miraculous gift, but at what cost?" is not. That's not to say this isn't an entertaining film, simply that the filmmakers landed on a fairly familiar archetype for the basis of their story. I'm a fan of the sci-fi genre and like many people, I like my sci-fi material sweetened with a healthy serving of monsters, ghosts, vampires, or other things that go bump in the night. White Noise 2 certainly delivers on that front, with a fair share of supernatural moments to make you jump.

Although the majority of the film's cast may not be instantly recognizable, headliner Fillion and co-star Katie Sackhoff (Battlestar Galactica and The Bionic Woman) bring a weight and authority to this piece that help raise the bar above the usual direct-to-DVD or made-for-TV fare. I was also impressed by some of the stunt work and visual effects, especially given this was a direct-to-video production.

Based on the fact that White Noise 2 is a dark and atmospheric film, for the most part it's difficult to rave about the HD visual presentation. A comparison with the SD version of the film on the flipside certainly reveals the 1080p 2.35:1 HD presentation to be clearer and much sharper than its 2.35:1 anamorphic counterpart, but it's still not a disc I'd use to sell my friends on HD. Yes, the visual presentation is sharp and clear, but there are only a handful of scenes that really allow the HD presentation to shine. The audio presentation is slightly different story, as there is appropriate use of the surround channels for creepy moments; for proof of this, pay close attention to the sequence that begins around 11 minutes into the film. The TrueHD audio presentation delivers slightly better than the Dolby Digital Plus mix, but they are both excellent.

The offering of extras on this release is both moderate and somewhat redundant. Deleted scenes and three short featurettes are duplicated on both sides of the disc, so if you have the choice, the HD version of the featurettes is the way you'll want to go; SD is the only option for the deleted scenes. There are 12 deleted scenes included here, with the majority of the content providing additional character development for the main character, Abe Dale. While watching the scenes, I honestly felt the film would have benefited from leaving them in, not that it was weaker without them, but they really added some nice moments.

"Exploring Near-Death Experience" takes a documentary approach as six individuals share their personal experiences with clinical death, what happened after they died, and how their lives have changed since they were brought back to life. "The Making of White Noise 2" is a fairly standard promotional piece, sharing short interviews with the director, actors, and production staff during the film's production. "Journey into Madness" follows actor Nathan Fillion and a Location Production Assistant as they tour the vacant asylum where many of the film's scenes were shot; this would have been a far more painful viewing experience without Fillion's dryly comedic delivery. Like many other HD releases, there is a Web-enabled feature that allows users to download exclusive content, providing you have a web link enabled. The final extra on this release, the now-familiar MyScenes HD feature, allows viewers to flag their favorite scenes throughout the film and store them for repeat viewing later.

The Rebuttal Witnesses

I still find it hard to understand why studios deem it necessary to produce HD or BD combo releases that include a standard definition version of the film in the same set. Most people I know who have the option of viewing hi-def content in their home theater will always defer to that option over a likely inferior standard def version. Maybe they provide this option so combo release owners can lend the film to their friends who only have a standard definition viewing option? Who knows?

Closing Statement

No matter what your views and beliefs are about life after death and the existence of EVP as proof of communication with the dead, there's no denying that White Noise 2 is a chilling tale that leaves you thinking and possibly sleeping with the lights on. It's a shame this production wasn't released theatrically, as it is a much stronger film overall than its predecessor. If you're looking for some hi-def chills on a dark winter night, White Noise 2 is definitely worth a rental, but due to the slim offering of extra features, I'd find it hard to recommend this release as a purchase…that is unless a voice comes through on my 8-track tape deck that convinces me otherwise!

The Verdict

It's nice to see a sequel take the concept of the original film and build on it, rather than simply rehashing an old concept to make some quick bucks at the box office or in the direct-to-video market. White Noise 2 adds some interesting new twists and scares and is certainly an enjoyable way to spend an evening.

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Scales of Justice

Video: 80
Audio: 85
Extras: 75
Acting: 85
Story: 85
Judgment: 80

Perp Profile

Studio: Universal
Video Formats:
• 2.35:1 Non-Anamorphic (Widescreen)
Audio Formats:
• TrueHD 5.1 Surround (English)
• Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 Surround (English)
Subtitles:
• French
Running Time: 99 Minutes
Release Year: 2007
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
Genres:
• HD DVD
• Horror
• Paranormal
• Suspense
• Thriller

Distinguishing Marks

• Deleted Scenes
• "Exploring Near-Death Experience"
• "Science Fiction: Fantasy to Reality"
• "The Making of White Noise 2"
• "Journey into Madness"
• Web-Enabled Features
• MyScenes








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