The Movie Waffler New Release Review - Red Lights | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review - Red Lights

Directed by: Rodrigo Cortes
Starring: Sigourney Weaver, Robert De Niro, Cillian Murphy, Toby Jones, Elizabeth Olsen, Joely Richardson
Skeptic investigators Weaver and Murphy focus their attention on exposing celebrity faith healer De Niro but evidence mounts that he may not be the fraud they believe him to be.
With his impressive English language debut, the spam in a can thriller "Buried", Cortes established himself as a talent to watch. Like M. Night Shyamalan after "The Sixth Sense", his follow up has interesting moments but is all too problematic to hold together. It's a run of the mill thriller but Cortes brings a touch of latin madness to proceedings. 
One of my least favorite sayings is that old fallback of the religious, "There are no atheists in foxholes". I will concede that there are no atheists in the cinema, I can enjoy a supernatural thriller just as much as someone who actually believes in spirits and higher powers. I could actually contend that atheists have an advantage over spiritualists when it comes to the enjoyment of a horror movie. We put our faith in logic and the knowledge that our destiny is in our own hands helps us sleep at night. The idea that some sort of higher force may actually be in control is the most terrifying concept we can think of. Movies that feature this idea creep us out immensely. If I believed in an all powerful deity it would fill me with a terror that no movie could come close to replicating. It's this reason that made "Red Lights" effective up to a point. The idea of skeptics as our protagonists is something you rarely see and is probably the reason for this movie's European rather than American funding. In a twist on "The X-Files", Murphy's office features a poster of a UFO which reads "I want to understand".
The script for "Buried" was written by Chris Sparling but Cortes has self-penned his follow up. Bad idea, he really should have hired someone to help iron out the plot holes and inconsistencies. Individually there are some very well written scenes, Weaver's exposing of Jones' poor interrogation technique a particular standout, but the whole story is held together far too precariously. I can't believe I'm complaining about the presence of the wonderful Olsen but her character is one of the biggest problems, serving no purpose save to explain the plot to idiots or those too busy texting to pay attention to the screen. In a horrific piece of writing she explains a major plot twist through dialogue which is revealed visually in the very next scene. To me this feels like outside interference, as though Cortes' financial backers worried the audience wouldn't be able to follow events without every plot point being hammered home.
There are entertaining moments when the plot is put aside and Cortes indulges in creepiness and visual insanity. We get scary vagrants, surreal dreams and one particularly atmospheric sequence where Murphy pays a visit to De Niro's office, decorated like the Black Lodge from "Twin Peaks". These scenes reminded me of some of the great whacko seventies horror movies which attempted to cash in on the success of "The Exorcist"; films like William Girdler's "The Manitou", Michael Winner's "The Sentinel", Larry Cohen's excellent "God Told Me To", and even John Boorman and William Peter Blatty's "Exorcist" sequels. If Cortes had been allowed focus more on mood than plot this would have been a far better movie. Unfortunately this is one red light you don't need to stop for.