Monday, October 8, 2012


“If you are interested in a film that plays with the ideas of the paranormal and how it affects the lives of some remarkable characters, give Red Lights a try.”

Horror, Thriller, Mystery and Drama

Staring - Cillian Murphy as Tom Buckley, Robert De Niro as Simon Silver, Sigourney Weaver as Margaret Matheson, Joely Richardson as Monica Handsen, Elizabeth Olsen as Sally Owen, Craig Roberts as Ben. Toby Jones as Dr. Paul Shackleton, Burn Gorman as Benedict Cosell and Leonardo Sbaraglia as Leonardo "Leo" Palladino

Director - Rodrigo Cortés

Writer - Rodrigo Cortés

Rated R for language and some violence

Runtime - 113 min.

Red Lights is a psychological thriller in the tradition of films by Hitchcock and De Palma. While those directors dealt strictly with perceptual reality, Red Lights director and writer, Rodrigo Cortés, adds a paranormal element to his film. Rather than detract from the dramatic impact of the film, I felt it contributed greatly to it.

Red Lights plot focuses on Margaret Matheson and her assistant, Tom Buckley. Matheson has spent thirty years investigating and disproving the existence of the paranormal. Working for an underfunded University department, Matheson and Buckley continue to investigate false psychics, while teaching at the university. Simon Silver, one of the world’s most renowned psychics has come out of retirement and Buckley wants to investigate him. Matheson refuses and Buckley finds out that early in her career, Matheson had an encounter with him which shook her firm disbelief in the paranormal. Buckley decides to pursue Silver himself and tragedy befalls not only his investigation, but Matheson herself.

Red Lights is a film that hinges so firmly on the events of the character’s past and how they relate to their actions in the present, that I would be doing you a disservice if I went into any further detail of the story. I will say that it is the type of film that builds very slowly, as much of the film is spent detailing the history of the main characters and how it affects their current lives. Fortunately, these characters are interesting and sympathetic enough that you are captivated by their seemingly routine and yet, peculiar lives.

Sigourney Weaver is remarkable as the paranormal investigator Margaret Matheson. She brings real conviction and gravitas to a role that could have been played more overtly melodramatic by a lesser actress. Cillian Murphy, who plays Matheson’s assistant, is an actor whose wide-eyed looks have always vaguely disturbed me. However, he is perfectly cast in this role, but for reasons I can’t say here without giving away one of the film’s truly remarkable revelations. My initial interest in Red Lights was in Robert De Niro playing the role of psychic Simon Silver. De Niro has been in many roles lately that have not required him to do more than reiterate tropes from previous performances. Here De Niro plays a blind psychic, whose controversial past has caused him to go into hiding, but suddenly puts himself back into the limelight for unknown reasons. De Niro perfectly captures a man who on the exterior exudes calm confidence, yet seems to be quietly hiding darker and more complex motives. All these three actors make Red Lights worth watching, even in the longer stretches where nothing important appears to be occurring.

While Red Lights does occasionally get bogged down with somewhat simplistic melodramatic character motivations, particularly the revelation of Matheson’s son being in a coma for decades, for the most part the complex character interrelationships ring true. I found Red Lights to be both captivating as a character drama and as a moral examination in regards to the paranormal.

It is a shame that Red Lights did not get a wider release in this country. It was only released in eighteen theaters for one week in this country and as a result made very little money. It has been unfairly compared by some critics to some of M. Night Shyamalan’s lesser efforts, but unlike his films, I felt Red Lights plays fairly with the audience and doesn’t completely live or die on the film’s final revelations. If you are interested in a film that plays with the ideas of the paranormal and how it affects the lives of some remarkable characters, give Red Lights a try.

TECHNICAL: Acting – 10 Directing – 9 Cinematography – 9 Script – 9 Special Effects – 8
VISCERAL: Visual – 9 Auditory – 9 Intellectual – 8 Emotional – 9 Involvement – 9
TOTAL - 89

Without sounding too self-congratulatory, (I hope) this is my 200th post on Guardians of the Genre and my 58th movie review. I didn't set out with any set goal of a number of posts or reviews when I started this blog with my (mostly) silent guardian members, but I do feel a certain degree of satisfaction with these two accomplishments. Thank you for reading and commenting on my posts.

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