Red Lights is a psychological thriller from filmmaker Rodrigo Cortés, the man behind Ryan Reynolds-in-good-acting shocker Buried. In that film, the Spanish director created tension on a shoestring and proved he is one to watch. This time Cortes writes and directs and has also gathered a rather remarkable cast to explore the questionable realm of the supernatural. In Red Lights, we’re introduced to Tom Buckley (Cillian Murphy) and Margaret Matheson (Sigourney Weaver) as paranormal investigators but instead of finding spirits, ghosts and ghouls...they’re out to disprove the fantasy and expose the fraud.
The setup at a mysterious looking, set-up-for-horror house is everything we could initially hope for, as Matheson is invited into a séance and Buckley sits observing, scientifically recording and monitoring the action via computers and cameras. Not only is this séance eerie and slightly unhinged, once things kick off, lights smash, tables turn and it builds a great air of intrigue. Once they’re on the road to investigate more, they hear news of the unexpected reappearance of Simon Silver (Robert De Niro), a blind spoon-bending psychic who became a recluse after a mysterious death at one of his shows, 30 years ago.
Cillian Murphy as the intelligent Tom Buckley carries the film and is the young protégé to Weaver’s Margaret Matheson. She’s a sceptic but also psychologically on the edge, her back story – as well as Murphy’s – mean that both characters have reasons for what they’re doing or… trying to prove. There’s accompaniment from Elizabeth Olsen as Sally Owen, a form of influential love interest for Buckley and it’s great to see Submarine's Craig Roberts, also in an effective co-starring role. Toby Jones plays Paul Shackelton, a man who’s an academic sparring partner for Matheson and of course, Robert De Niro as Simon Silver. De Niro’s character takes on a God-like persona, reading thoughts, giving philosophical speeches whilst all the time, healing supposed ailments or, at least, making people believe they’re healed. Personally, I love seeing De Niro back in the more serious roles, it feels like it’s close to his INSOMNIA but unfortunately, just as we get going…the whole thing starts to unravel.
Fundamentally, Red Lights is trying to be too clever for its own good and where the early works of M.Night Shyamalan surprised so successfully, the twists feel strangely predictable and somehow makes the unbelievable more implausible than it was already. red Lights succeeds greatly in its visual state, Cortés has taken on cinematographer Xavi Giménez, the man who bought the bone and bare flesh to The Machinist (2004) and I was also reminded of The Mothman Prophecies (2002).
Red Lightsis definitely not one to be avoided and it does raise questions for each character as they develop. Occasionally, it feels like an episode of the X-FILES but there are flashes of brilliance from Cortés and perhaps it needs a slight re-focus on the last act, if it’s to draw in bigger crowds.
Red Lights is out now in the UK.