Unquiet spirits whispering traditional cryptic messages from beyond through modern-day gadgets provide the gimmick behind this atmospheric but deeply stupid thriller in which grieving widower Jonathan Rivers (Michael Keaton) submerges himself in the spooky world of EVP — electronic voice communication with the dead. Given the deeply ominous credits sequence, which features everyday household objects brutally distorted by ear-scraping bursts of static and electronic distortion, it would take a slow-witted viewer not to know Seattle-based architect Rivers' domestic bliss is doomed. He's successful, amicably divorced from the first wife (Sarah Strange) with whom he shares custody of their cutie-pie son (Nicholas Elia), and happily remarried to beautiful, newly pregnant novelist Anna (Chandra West). When she drives off on an uncharacteristically bright, bright, sunshiny day, smiling beatifically, it's a foregone conclusion she won't be back. Her body is subsequently fished from the water near an unused pier and the verdict is accidental death, predicated on the odd assumption that she slipped while changing a flat tire and her corpse was washed upriver from the spot where her car was found. Jonathan is a rational man and disinclined to give credence to the portly stranger, Raymond Price (Ian McNeice), who appears one day claiming Anna has contacted him. But he's also disconsolate and eventually succumbs to Raymond's insistence that the dead use existing electronic frequencies and devices — cell phones, TV sets, radios — to communicate with their loved ones. Raymond, a true believer who helps guide others through the ups and downs of EVP, introduces Jonathan to Sarah Tate (Deborah Kara Unger), who's looking for word from her late fiancé. In the blink of an eye Jonathan is a man possessed, abandoning work to sit up all night surrounded by TV monitors, VCRs and computer equipment, becoming convinced that Anna wants him to use his newfound connection with the dead to help the living and blithely ignoring warnings that when you open a door to the other side you can't control who walks in. U.K. writer and director Niall Johnson and Geoffrey Sax work up plenty of eerie ambience, but the tone of haunted ambiguity evoked by Sarah's dreamy admission that, having discerned the word happy in what appears to be her late fiancé's voice, she's heard what she "wanted to hear" is steamrolled flat by Jonathan's increasingly preposterous, thoroughly credibility-straining escapades.
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- Released: 2005
- Rating: PG-13
- Review: Unquiet spirits whispering traditional cryptic messages from beyond through modern-day gadgets provide the gimmick behind this atmospheric but deeply stupid thriller in which grieving widower Jonathan Rivers (Michael Keaton) submerges himself in the spooky… (more)