White Noise 2

ON

Now available on DVD

Cast:

Nathan Fillion as Abe Dale

Katee Sackhoff as Sherry Clarke

Craig Fairbrass as Henry Caine

Adrian Holmes as Marty Bloom

William MacDonald as Dr. Karros

Directed by Patrick Lussier

Review:

Despite being a lifelong paranormal junkie, I don’t know much about electronic voice phenomena, or EVP, but the idea that ethereal sounds captured on recordings could actually be the voices of the dead conjures up all sorts of intriguing possibilities for a horror film — possibilities that apparently didn’t occur to the makers of the rote supernatural thriller “White Noise 2.”

One minute Abe Dale (Nathan Fillion) is sharing a plate of waffles with his wife and son; the next, he’s watching helplessly as his family is unceremoniously gunned down (in a remarkably bloodless killing). Consumed by guilt, he attempts to join his deceased loved ones with an overdose of prescription meds, but just as his spirit nears the end of that infamous tunnel, the afterworld puts the breaks on his ascent and sends him back — with special powers of perception. Out in the all-too-real world, Abe can not only see and hear dead people around him, but also predict when the living are going to die through the aid of an angelic haze that he sees around the nearly soon-to-depart. Compelled to use his newfound talent for good, he begins saving the lives of others while adding a little zest to his own in a budding relationship with a tempting young widow (Katee Sackhoff). But Abe’s good deeds come back to haunt him, quite literally, when he learns the origins of his unearthly skills.

Dumped on DVD in the states following a UK theatrical run so brief the prints were headed back to Universal before the credits had rolled, “White Noise 2” has little to do with its predecessor beyond the use of EVP to communicate with the dead, and even that premise is mostly abandoned by screenwritier Matt Venne (who adapted “Pelts” for Dario Argento’s installment in the first season of “Masters of Horror”) and director Patrick Lussier, who swap one mysterious phenomenon for another and structure their tale around the fallout from a near-death experience. After tasting the light at the end of the tunnel, Abe soon discovers that he requires no television or audio recording to receive transmissions from the dead — he is, himself, a receiver. But Abe’s ghostly visions bear no real message in need of his cross-dimensional capabilities. These specters aren’t trying to contact their loved ones; they just pop up in a reflection or leap out of a closet at random intervals with no discernable intent other than to scare Abe.

Venne’s script is heavily cluttered with this kind of padding, a lot of cloak-and-dagger junk filling in the gaps between increasingly strained plot twists and revelations. Characters are conveniently acquainted with every acronym in the paranormal dictionary but can’t deliver a single line of believable dialogue, and seem to exist for the sole purpose of providing Abe, mouth agape and eyes perpetually glazed as played by Fillion, with another piece of the convoluted narrative puzzle. Dr. Karros (William MacDonald), who treats Abe following his near-death experience, researches EVP as a hobby, looking for the faces of the dead in reruns of Elvis movies he screens in the batcave-like control center he’s assembled in the hospital basement. Sherry (Sackhoff) is introduced as a horror fan’s dream nurse, but as the story evolves she’s relegated to a pawn, an unlikely love interest thrown in to lend the film sex appeal and give Abe something to do when he’s not sitting around solving ancient Greek codes. If the Lifetime network had a sibling channel devoted schmaltzy, extravagant melodramas for middle-aged men, “White Noise 2” would run in heavy rotation.

Venne and Lussier attempt to validate the film by grounding it Christian mythology and symbolism (much like Lussier’s directorial debut “Dracula 2000”), but what results is a muddled stew of themes and implications, all of them rendered irrelevant by a hokey conclusion.

Though doomed for the small screen by Universal’s hasty planning, “White Noise 2” benefits from big-money production values and a competent crew. Director Lussier (who cut together the “Scream” films prior to stepping behind the camera) adds a stylistic touch to the visuals, and the ghouls, though lacking any raison d’etre, look great thanks the makeup skills of Gary Tunnicliff, who honed his craft on latter day sequels in the “Hellraiser,” “Halloween,” and “Return of the Living Dead” series.

All things considered, a “White Noise” sequel could have turned out a lot worse. Venne and Lussier attempt to take the series into new territory, and the results are slick, professional, and entirely watchable. But if the dead could speak to us through our TVs, they’d probably tell us to seek our scares elsewhere.

Extras:

Deleted Scenes: There are a couple of new clips included here, but the majority of the bunch are extended sequences that differ little from their slightly shorter counterparts in the finished film. And don’t come here looking for the missing blood, either; the “White Noise 2” shoot was evidently Karo syrup-free.

Exploring Near-Death Experiences: The founder of the Near Death Experience Research Foundation hosts this unintentionally amusing introduction to NDEs. A handful of individuals share their stories and challenge the skeptics, but the lush backdrops and new age musical score that accompany their testimonial make the piece feel more like an infomercial than a scientifically sound document of unexplained phenomena.

The Making of White Noise 2: With only 8 minutes to summarize the on-set experience of making the film, this brief clip fails to address much in any significant depth. Lussier, his principle cast, and the producers of the film are primarily non-committal on whether they believe in NDEs or EVP, but they all seem pretty confident that Sackhoff’s character on “Battlestar Galactica” could kick your ass.

Journey Into Madness: Production assistant Barbara Copp and star Fillion take us on a breezy tour of the supposedly haunted asylum where many of the film’s sequences were shot. Clearly thrown together in-between set-ups, there’s a fun, off-the-cuff feel to the proceedings, but very little factual information is shared, and Fillion hammers a joke about shock therapy and lobotomies into the cold, linoleum-covered ground.