White Noise 2: The Light

It can be jarring when horror sequels do something almost entirely different with their concept but still use that same franchise name as the first one, it either means bravely pioneering new ground or gravely deviating from an already solid blueprint into a morass of sideshow muck. In the case of White Noise 2: The Light I couldn’t tell you which of those two categories it fits into because it was such a confounding, nonsensical story I really didn’t make too much sense of any of it, so I suppose the second one if I had to say. Following the exploits of the excellent first film in which we saw Michael Keaton communicate with the dead, including his wife, via spooky VHS tape static, this one goes in a drastically different direction. Nathan Fillion plays a guy whose wife and child are murdered in the opening scene of the film by a disturbed, gun wielding maniac (perennial UK tough guy Craig Fairbrass) before the man blows his own head off. Lost in a pit of despair, Fillion attempts suicide himself and has a brief trip to the afterlife (cue the XBox 360 cutscene effects) before returning to make it a near death experience and discovering he has certain… abilities. Premonition, foresight, the power to sense impending catastrophes and save those in their path and the clairvoyance to know when certain seemingly benign people are going to perpetrate horrible acts of their own, kinda like the guy… well you can see where this going. He meets a friendly nurse played by the wonderful Katee Sackhoff and I must admit that their pairing is pretty much a casting match made in Heaven and the best thing the film has going for it, even if the script doesn’t do all that much with them together. The cast beyond them aren’t people I recognized except for a hilarious early career cameo from Jared Keeso, who Letterkenny fans will be just tickled to see here and may even do a double take. The film is set in Vancouver again and as always it adds a lot of atmosphere, but you can only do so much for a story that’s told as loosely and unconvincingly as this. There’s no real reference to the first film or it’s premise, this for sure didn’t even need to be called White Noise at all, it’s more a sequel to that Sandra Bullock flick Premonition than anything resembling a tie-in to the Keaton one, and it’s just not gripping, interesting, scary or affecting enough to recommend whatsoever. If you must give it a look to see Fillion and Sackhoff gently flirting for a few scenes then go for it, I don’t blame you, but just don’t expect anything close to an involving thriller here.

-Nate Hill



Continuing his string of paycheck movies, Drive Angry (2011) is actually closer to the gonzo Nicolas Cage of old than the diluted actor we’ve come to expect in films like Next (2007) and Knowing (2009). With Drive Angry, he’s made a full-on, balls-out cult film that flopped spectacularly at the box office and was trashed by the critics. It has all the necessary ingredients of cult status: loads of ultraviolence, nudity, lots of cussing, and all kinds of character actors chewing up the scenery. The film is the brainchild of Patrick Lussier and Todd Farmer, the former, a B-horror director responsible for efforts like Dracula III: Legacy (2005) and My Bloody Valentine 3D (2009). While the latter film was an unnecessary remake of the 1980’s Canadian slasher film of the same name, it did hint at the garish excesses Lussier was capable of and has finally delivered with Drive Angry.

The film begins with John Milton (Nicolas Cage) literally escaping from hell in a badass muscle car. He is trying to avenge his daughter’s murder and rescue her kidnapped baby from Jonah King (Billy Burke), the sadistic leader of a satanic cult. In the first five minutes, Milton totals a pick-up truck with three flunkies in a way that is so gloriously and stylishly over-the-top that it would make Robert Rodriguez green with envy. While his film Machete (2010) paid homage to exploitation films, Drive Angry is one, only with A-list talent. Milton crosses paths with Piper (Amber Heard), a tough ex-waitress who has recently broken up with her deadbeat boyfriend (Todd Farmer in a cameo). Hot on their trail is a man known only as the Accountant (William Fichtner), a dapper minion from Hell come to bring Milton back.

Inspired by another cartoonish action film, Shoot ‘Em Up (2007), Drive Angry also features a gun battle while the protagonist is having sex only captured in slow motion and cheekily scored to “You Want the Candy” by the Raveonettes. While excessively violent and gory, the action sequences are all so overtly stylish that they can’t be taken too seriously. This film is akin to a blood-drenched, R-rated cartoon. The violence isn’t cruel and mean-spirited like in a torture porn horror film, but rather gleefully petulant like the guys who orchestrated all of this mayhem grew up reading Fangoria in the ‘80s.

Surrounded by all of this garish style and crazed violence, Nicolas Cage wisely underplays his role, going for the calm, collected man of action. He’s matched up perfectly with the always watchable William Fichtner who seems to be channeling Christopher Walken with his wonderfully eccentric performance. He looks to be having an absolute blast with this role and steals every scene he’s in with his unfailingly polite yet very lethal character. Billy Burke is suitably sinister as a religious fanatic and the beautiful Amber Heard holds her own as a two-fisted, curse-like-a-sailor sidekick to Cage’s undead avenger. David Morse even shows up using his considerable skill as an actor to make a chunk of exposition dialogue palatable.

Drive Angry has everything you could want from a trashy action film: cool muscle cars, over-the-top shoot-outs, larger than life baddies, and a cool good guy with a mission. All of this is handled ably by Lussier in what is easily his most accomplished film to date. He gleefully sticks a middle finger in the face of political correctness with a film that is more entertaining than it had any right to be. Cage needs to do more films like this and Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans (2009), which harken back to the eccentric characters he played early on in his career.