Red Lights (2012)
Rodrigo Cortés proved with Buried, that he was adept at creating a tense and involving drama with a modest budget and strong lead performances. With Red Lights he once again manages to craft a suspenseful story, in spite of the significantly larger production and inclusion of some A list talent. I say this because Red Lights is a bit top heavy with "actors" who seem to be intent on "acting". Robert De Niro presence does for example overwhelm the proceedings particularly in the last act, which becomes somewhat bombastic in tone. The movie is also a curious hybrid because despite being marketed as a supernatural chiller, it has an underlying theme that would be more at home in a political thriller.
The plot is an old chestnut. Sigourney Weaver and Cillian Murphy are a pair of scientists, Dr Margaret Matheson and assistant Tom Buckley, who debunk mediums and psychics who prey on the public. When blind psychic Simon Silver (Robert De Niro), re-appears on the scene after a thirty-year absence, Tom takes a keen interest. His mentor is not only sceptical, but also somewhat perturbed advising Tom to act with caution with regard to Silver. Is he a fraud or does he actually have powers of a dangerous nature? Cortés steadily turns up the tension, as doors close on their own, lights blow, and birds become suicidal. Furthermore, the audience is presented with a challenging theme that being sceptical is often treated with more scorn these days than openly embracing the supernatural.
It all plays very well initially, with shades of Hitchcock and Brian De Plama, blended with M Night Shyamalan. There's even a hint of the Parallax View. Then for some reason in the last act, the director decides to turn it up to eleven and then Red Lights comes off the rails. The result is an ending that divides audiences and offers a point of debate. Stupid, pretentious, obtuse and ill-conceived are just some of the terms I’ve encountered with regard to this movie. Now it is never a bad thing for a film’s meaning or ending to become a talking point, if that discussion is a positive process. Unfortunately, I feel that in Red Lights case, that is not what has happened. This is a movie that does not travel to its ending by most direct route and the destination is may not be what you expected. Therefore adjust your expectations.