White Noise: The Light Review
Here's a rare and mysterious phenomenon - a sequel that's better than the original. And an unheralded sequel no one was particularly clamouring for, at that. White Noise, a surprise box office hit two years ago, was only a middling film. It was spooky alright and it had a good performance by Michael Keaton but its story didn't do much with its intriguing, supernatural premise and it led up to a very lame ending. White Noise: The Light is a definite improvement. It's still spooky and it has another impressive male lead, Nathan Fillion this time, however this one tells a far more compelling tale. Don't let its sequel status (the script is only related to White Noise by subject matter) and the tacky promotional campaign put you off what is a pretty good horror film.
Abe Dale (Nathan Fillion) thinks he has nothing to live for when he takes an overdose of pills. His wife and young son are dead, murdered in an apparently senseless shooting rampage, and he blames himself for not reacting quickly enough to save them. Abe's suicide attempt renders him clinically dead, if only briefly. After experiencing a near death experience and seeing the famous white light at the end of the tunnel, he's revived by doctors. As he recovers, Abe learns he's come back a changed man, with some startling new abilities. He can see auras around people who are going to die soon, he can hear the voices of the dead... and he can see ghosts.
After a very unsettling opening scene, White Noise: The Light seems for a while like it's going to be just another film about ghosts jumping out at people - ghosts that resemble static-ridden TV images, a concept already used by the Ring films and Pulse. However, script-writer Matt Venne has some clever ideas up his sleeve. Half an hour in, the story takes an intriguing turn, as Abe starts using his abilities to help people. And then there's another twist, a chilling one that creates a real sense of horror. If the climax is a bit too much, by then the film has you in its grip.
Perhaps Venne's story owes something to Stephen King's The Dead Zone and M Night Shyamalan's Unbreakable but it's far more interesting than the usual bump-in-the-night ghost flick. The script's unexpected ambition allows you to forgive its rough edges - a couple more rewrites might have cleared up some of the more dubious coincidences and the clunkier dialogue.
Like the script, the direction is a little shaky in places. Director Patrick Lussier's previous credit is the unremarkable Dracula 2000 and, six years on, he's still a little too fond of MTV-style editing. He's also prone to serve up gratuitous shocks complete with the obligatory "boom" on the soundtrack. Whenever there's a quiet moment, the movie throws a ghost at you. I'm not sure how the ghosts are even relevant to the story. On the other hand, given a decent scene to direct, Lussier rises to the occasion. The opening diner scene and a shocking incident in a hotel lobby are highly accomplished pieces of cinema. He can direct actors too, a rare ability among horror directors.
Star Nathan Fillion has grown on me since Serenity. I thought he was a weak substitute for Harrison Ford in that film but in Slither and now White Noise: The Light, he's made a very effective "everyman" hero. He has the same easy, middle-American charm of the young Kevin Costner. Here he creates tremendous sympathy for his character, which pays off in spades towards the end. God knows Hollywood needs some younger leading men right now and it could do a lot worse than Fillion. Katee Sackhoff, another TV science fiction star (she plays Starbuck on the new Battlestar Galactica) is a winning heroine and English actor Craig Fairbrass (Cliffhanger) is scary in a supporting role.