The reason why I do not watch a lot of current horror and paranormal-themed movies is because they have become terribly cliched and predictable. It seems that gone are the days where a movie of this genre could actually give you some thrills and chills in a creative way, without slipping into oblivion as it uses an oft-copied synopsis with an obvious ending. This genre, like science fiction, has so much that can happen by way of where a story can go, yet filmmakers do not explore all the avenues–they just keep recycling plots over and over and over again. However, there is one film that came out just last year, Red Lights, directed by Rodrigo Cortes, which managed to escape all of that stagnancy. It is a very creative and unique story, one you have probably never even heard of, because it had a limited theatrical run, even though it stars Robert DeNiro, Sigourney Weaver, and Cillian Murphy. It is a movie about a duo of paranormal investigators (Weaver and Murphy) who actually go out in the field to debunk hauntings as being hoaxes, as well as psychics as being frauds. This is a very interesting premise in itself, because the movie goes lengths to put all the cards on the table as to exactly how psychics trick people into thinking they are real. Of course, since this is a movie, by the time the ending comes, we have to witness something supernatural and unbelievable, but the rest of the storyline is enthralling, even at an abnormally slow pace for such a movie.
Red Lights has an atmosphere to it; the dark, shadowy cinematography draws you into the world of these investigators, who teach a college-level class on mind trickery and paranormal fraud. Even if you do not find it entertaining, you will definitely learn something from many of the scenes, such as how these psychics “cold read” weak-minded truth seekers, as well as a little help they have from an earpiece and someone backstage telling them what to say. You will also learn how people fake seances, and how easy it is to fool someone with card tricks and other feats of mind strength, which are done in very simple yet unnoticeable manners. I was actually taken aback by the opening scene involving a supposed haunting, because I thought it was the perfect way to begin a film like this. The title Red Lights is based on so-called “warning signs” that something is fraudulent, like strange people hanging around an area where a psychic is soon going to be (they are there to assist them in the tricking process).
For a movie that not many people seem to have liked, and one that never really got much publicity, this film features intense and outstanding acting from Robert DeNiro, as superstar psychic Simon Silver, who has come out of retirement after decades for a theater tour. Weaver and Murphy, also good in their respective roles, then set out to expose him, and despite warnings, Murphy sets out to investigate him, even with Weaver telling him that Silver is a dangerous man who knows how to play people. In the scenes where DeNiro is on stage, he completely steals the show in a tour-de-force performance, and it makes you wonder why no one has heard of this movie.
The one place where movies like this seem to mess up is, of course, the ending. Directors constantly fail here, even if the rest of their movie is pretty good. With Red Lights, while it does go against the grain and some people may scratch their head and ask, “Why?”, I think it actually works. I really cannot elaborate, because that would be a major spoiler, but what I will say is that there is a bit of a twist, which if you take some time to absorb and think about when you are done, you will find that it was the right way to end it. Overall, this is one of the better paranormal/psychological thrillers (cannot classify this one as horror) I have seen in the last few years, and I will award it a 7/10 rating.