Title: Red Lights

Director: Rodrigo Cortes (‘Buried’)

Starring: Sigourney Weaver, Robert De Niro, Cillian Murphy (’28 Days Later,’ ‘Batman Begins,’ ‘Inception’) and Elizabeth Olsen (‘Martha Marcy May Marlene,’ ‘Silent House,’ ‘Peace, Love & Misunderstanding’)

People are often so set in their ways and are determined to hold onto their beliefs that they refuse to see and accept other people’s views and opinions. Science is one of the main areas where people need concrete proof and evidence in order to believe things. The scientists in the new horror thriller ‘Red Lights,’ which is set to hit select theaters on Friday, are so certain that the supernatural can be discredited that they’re intent on proving renowned blind psychic Simon Silver is a fraud when he decides to come out of retirement. The debate between the scientists and the believers of the paranormal in the film will surely make viewers question what they think they know.

‘Red Lights’ follows veteran paranormal researchers Dr. Margaret Matheson (played by Sigourney Weaver) and Tom Buckley (portrayed by Cillian Murphy) as they debunk fraudulent claims of psychic phenomena. Matheson can detect fraud by what she calls red lights, the subtle tricks behind every staged supernatural occurrence. But when Simon (played by Robert De Niro) comes out of retirement, his once-fearless rival Margaret warns Tom to back off, fearing retaliation from her old adversary.

Tom is determined to discredit Simon, and elicits help from his star student, Sally Owen (portrayed by Elizabeth Olsen). The two use every tool at their disposal to uncover the truth behind the charismatic mind reader. But Tom eventually must question his own core beliefs in his quest to discredit Simon.

‘Red Lights’ director Rodrigo Cortes, who also penned the screenplay for the horror thriller, perfectly cast the main characters in the film, particularly Murphy and Weaver. While scripting the movie, the filmmaker rightfully imagined the actors’ expressions and reactions as their respective characters in every scene. This helped develop the characters’ mental and emotional states, and allowed the actors to genuinely embody their respective roles

Tom and Margaret both underwent extreme psychological and emotional transformations throughout the course of ‘Red Lights,’ with good reason. In the beginning of the drama, the two are content with disproving supernatural happenings and teaching their students about the fraudulent ways alleged psychics make their living. But once Tom and Margaret become determined to discredit Simon, in order to gain more respect and credibility for themselves, both Murphy and Weaver memorably portray their characters as losing touch with reality. They’re determined not to let any scientific research stand in their way of proving that the supernatural doesn’t exist, even if it means putting their reputations, jobs and most importantly, their sanity, on the line.

While Murphy and Weaver are well-cast in their roles of Tom and Margaret, the story for ‘Red Lights’ is unfortunately, at times, self-indulgent, and Cortes ultimately didn’t live up to his full potential as a writer. There are several interesting elements and sub-plots the filmmaker touched upon in the movie, including a blooming love interest between Tom and Sally, as well as past experiences between Margaret and Simon over her comatose son, that should have been vastly expanded upon. But Cortes seemed intent on continuously reminding viewers of the characters beliefs about the supernatural and their superficial feelings towards each other. As a result, he disappointingly didn’t delve deeper into the characters’ back-stories and personalities.

But Cortes did put his extensive research into the paranormal to good use in ‘Red Lights,’ as there were some interesting stunts and special effects in the horror thriller. There are subtle, but intriguing, events that happen to Tom that make him start to question reality. For example, his lab is trashed in a matter of minutes while he is outside, but he doesn’t see anyone pass him to enter or exit the building. While he’s determined to prove Simon’s a fraud, Tom does begin to question why and how unexplainable occurrences are happening around him.

‘Red Lights’ strives to make viewers question the strange and unexplainable events around them, and to give them the chance to decide whether Tom and Margaret or Simon is telling the truth. While the horror thriller has a believable, well-cast set of main characters and some intriguing effects, the script wasn’t as dramatic or thorough as it should have been. While the characters are clearly and rightfully all dealing with their own personal issues, their back-stores, personalities and relationships should have been more clearly and thoroughly explained.

Technical: B

Acting: B+

Story: B-

Overall: B

Written by: Karen Benardello

Red Lights Movie Review

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By Karen Benardello

As a graduate of LIU Post with a B.F.A in Journalism, Print and Electronic, Karen Benardello serves as ShockYa's Senior Movies & Television Editor. Her duties include interviewing filmmakers and musicians, and scribing movie, television and music reviews and news articles. As a New York City-area based journalist, she's a member of the guilds, New York Film Critics Online and the Women Film Critics Circle.

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