Regardless of how I felt about this movie, I think a description of Red Lights will convince you whether or not you want to see it: In between teaching lectures about how to conduct a successful séance, two paranormal investigators with PhDs, Dr. Matheson and Dr. Buckley (Sigourney Weaver and Cillian Murphy), travel around the country proving that psychics, mediums, and healers are hoaxes. Everything seems to be going great for them until they meet Simon Silver (Robert De Niro), a blind, telekinetic, psychic, healer and rhetorician who appears to be the real deal. Dr. Matheson, who has had an unsuccessful run-in with Silver in the past, cautions Dr. Buckley to stay away from this dangerously convincing man. But his thirst for knowledge leads Dr. Buckley down dark alleys, full of bent spoons, dead birds, flickering lights, and other equally innocuous unexplained activities.
Seriously. This movie is bad. So bad. Weaver and De Niro phone it in, as they both have been fond of doing for the past couple decades, and their mere presence in the same movie should hint at said movie’s quality. De Niro’s introduction as a blind man features him stepping off a private airplane (because psychic-telekinetic-healers are huge celebrities in this world, constantly surrounded by the press) removing his sunglasses for a couple seconds so we can see his cloudy corneas, and then putting the glasses back on. And that is the extent of his performance in the entire film: moments of cliché, wrapped in ridiculously strange mis-en-scene.
Red Lights attempts to shock us with its twists and turns, but remains pretty obvious throughout. The soundtrack overwhelmingly clues us in to frightening moments before they happen, characters soliloquize about indiscernible trivialities, and characters remove their sunglasses for the sole purpose of letting the audience know they are blind.
The one bright spot of the film is Cillian Murphy, who, as always, delivers a strong performance amid some terrible filmmaking. But even Murphy’s performance cannot distract from the muddled mess of a plot writer/director Rodrigo Cortés constructs from an interesting premise. This could have been a fun, X-Files-esque exploration of paranormal phenomena. Instead, it is an extremely earnest failure that is still fun to watch, but only because of the unintended laughs.