On paper, there is much to look forward to with Red Lights. It has Rodrigo Cortes, the director of Buried, at the helm, there are psychics, séances, haunted houses and paranormal investigators, and a cast that includes Robert de Niro, Sigourney Weaver and Cillian Murphy. With all this in its favor, it is quite an experience to witness such a promising movie run out of steam so quickly and ends with barely a whimper instead of a bang.
Drs Tom Buckley and Margaret Matheson (Cillian Murphy and Sigourney Weaver) are paranormal investigators who have both dedicated their careers to debunking those fakes who pose as psychics only to make money off of the naïve beliefs of others. When Simon Silver (de Niro) a famous blind psychic announces that after 30 years he is coming out of retirement, Tom gets all excited as he has long wanted to out him as a fake.
His boss however, knows that there is a whole lot more to Silver than meets the eye and warns Tom to stay well away, advice which he, obviously, completely ignores. The first time we meet Matheson and Buckley, her assistant, they are exploring a seemingly haunted house, and the scene is reminiscent of Poltergeist or Insidious, and had the movie continued down this route it may have been more interesting, sadly for us it then loses its way completely.
After this promising start, the movie spends way too much time with this pair at university where they lecture on how fake psychics work and the tricks they use to appear plausible. A colleague of theirs meanwhile is also conducting his own psychic experiments. The Silver announcement changes the whole ball game. Buckley is chomping at the bit to prove he’s a fraud, while Matheson, having has dealings with him previously, is way more cautious.
It is clear the Cortes has done his homework and carried out much research into the world of the psychic to find out what tricks the hucksters use to separate the suckers from their dollars, and you would think with all that information he would have come up with a movie that was remotely worth investing a few hours of your time in. Instead, we get a movie that is kind of mildly interesting in parts, sleep inducing in others, and overall a pretty poor effort.
Things head downwards quickly, pointers seem to suggest Silver is the real deal, Buckley is convinced otherwise, and the whole thing ends up in a messy pile that will have you wondering what the hell is actually going on. The role of Silver does nothing to stretch de Niro, and he coasts through it as if it’s something he agreed to do before heading for the golf course. Even so, he is infinitely more watchable that Murphy’s annoying and worthy Buckley.
It is ironic that Red Lights replicates its own subject matter, in that it promises much, delivers little and we end up out of pocket at the end of it. You can’t blame the stars for signing up for it, as mentioned earlier, it had a great premise, but you get the feeling as time passes, and it becomes a huge flop, they will want to forget about it pretty darn quickly.