It has been a good thirteen years since M. Night Shyamalan burst onto the scene with The Sixth Sense, a film that won plaudits from the vast majority of critics. Personally, I was left a little underwhelmed, that’s not to say that the film didn’t have some pretty unnerving scenes and commendable performances, but because I anticipated the plot twists very early on, even the ending, which wowed audiences the world over. It was like the Twilight Zone or The Outer Limits never existed and writers such as Richard Matherson or Joseph Stefano never even put pen to paper. Red Lights suffers from the same problems, so if you’re familiar with either of those two shows, this film will feel a smidgeon old hat.
Red Lights is a film which relies on revealing as little as possible about the plot for it to work, so I’ll try my best not to give too much of the plot away. It plays out like an average Twilight Zone episode, and there in lies the problem. Normally when a critic says this, it means either one of two things; that the twists in the story are predictable and have been done before in the Twilight Zone or there is not enough material in the film to justify its running time.
Red Lights falls into both these categories, though that is not to say that there is not a lot of fun to be had along the way. There is very little plot during the first forty or so minutes. This is where the film is at its best; it sets up the characters, with a few nods to the Twilight Zone through the character names, for example, Margaret Matheson (Weaver). We follow Matherson and Tom Buckley (Murphy) as they debunk a series of hoaxes and give explanations as to why they are hoaxes. In a way it reminds me of the genius of magicians Penn & Teller, who made their career out of debunking ‘magic’ tricks. This is all hugely entertaining, if far fetched. Then the plot kicks in…
Once director Rodrigo Cortés gives us a plot to concentrate on, the film begins to fall apart. You can tell the exact moment this happens as Buckley bumps into a homeless person, who provides, not one, but two, rather pathetic attempts at jump scares. As the second half unfolds; it stretches all credibility, particularly during the films final act, where Silver (DeNiro) chews up scenery with gusto. The other cast members are fun to watch, particularly Signorney Weaver, who steals the show.Verdict:
Despite a fun filled first forty or so minutes, Red Lights fails to hold it all together and falls apart during the middle towards an increasingly ludicrous finale. The end itself will be a revelation to some, but personally I was left underwhelmed yet again. Movie Trivia: In the video lab where Buckley works there is a copy of the famous poster "I Want To Believe" from The X-Files, but the quote is changed to "I Want To Understand".
Spanish director Eugenio Mira plays Robert De Niro's character in his early 30s.
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