WE INTERRUPT THE POINTLESS 80'S HORROR MARATHON WITH THE FOLLOWING HALFWAY DECENT MOVIE YOU'VE PROBABLY NEVER HEARD OF
Red Lights (2012) Spain/US
Dazed and confused by the horrific display of bad movies floating in my brain I looked casually for something to 'clear the palate' so to speak. This looked - boring as hell but it had Robert DeNiro and Sigourney Weaver so why the hell not? I was actually pleasantly surprised.
Now this is the type of movie I usually despise - a college teaches parapsychology along with psychology which happens in no college ever anywhere. And the main two characters, Matheson (Sigourney Weaver) and her assistant Buckley (Cillian Murphy) who is also a physicist work at debunking psychic frauds. Sigh. Another one of those huh - just with a bit better actors and more money. And I went through the whole movie trying to figure out where I'd seen Cillian before (pronounced Krilian) and duh, he carried the movie 28 Days Later... shame on me.
The movie opens with Matheson (Sigourney playing her usual I'm-in-charge-don't-push-or-I'll-eat-you type of character) and her assistant debunking some very talented (but totally fake) psychics and 'mentalists'. Buckley is a little over-eager in this line, he hates fakes and uses his own talents at slight-of-hand and other slippery practices to get what he needs to take these guys down.
During the whole movie he seems to be writing a journal/letter to Matheson trying to explain why he is the way he is which is not clear until a pivotal point in the movie where things change (of course I'd figured it out already but that's just me - it was actually kind of clever).
One premier 'psychic', a blind man named Simon Silver (Robert De Niro) has been a target for years - but he had 'retired' and disappeared from the public eye. Thus Buckley wants to bring him down hard, but Silver and Matheson had tangled years before and she wanted to stay far away from him. Buckley disagrees and against her wishes goes to one of his performances. As soon as he turns on the electrical equipment that would catch if there were transmissions between Silver and his cohorts, something happens and the whole place shakes as glass shatters, equipment collapses, and he must get out quickly. He then finds that while he was gone Matheson, who had a pre-existing serious medical condition, collapsed in her office. She later dies.
Bereft but even more determined to prove Silver a fraud, he bullies a coworker to let him observe as the college is allowed to run a battery of tests on Silver to confirm his abilities. It is hoped by that department that the results will be the final say in whether paranormal talents are real. In a way, Buckley becomes more and more like Matheson - he acts as if he owes that to her. Even as strange events start to increase - birds keep hitting his windows, his office is vandalized, electronic equipment keeps shorting out - he still wants Silver's head on a, well, on a silver platter (sorry about that).
The tests are performed for hours, with every precaution taken, every scientific control used to prevent false readings and results on Silver - but he seems to 'pass' with flying colors as being the real thing. This makes Buckley even more determined to expose him. By now though, the movie has given the necessary hints to pretty much give you the results of the movie - the reference to 'Occam's Razor' (the simplest answer is usually the right one), Buckley remarking to an assistant that he knows things because he's psychic (in jest), the strange effects on lights and electronics while Buckley's around, his adeptness at sleight of hand and knowing a phony when he sees one... well it was obvious to me anyway.
The climax was good but a little disappointing at the same time. While it did give the answers and explain the movie, it also wrapped it up a little too perfectly in a neat package. And I think they over-simplified it quite a bit. Buckley goes to Silver's performance (again) even though it seems that Silver has been proven to be genuine. Which was laughable considering that among his 'abilities' he added psychic surgery (using just your hands to enter the body and 'remove' the sickness/failing organ) and levitation.
That assumption is destroyed when, as Buckley is in the men's room, one of Silver's goons comes in and tries to kill him. He fails and Buckley manages to storm into the auditorium and approach the stage (No security measures in this place huh? Oh well I guess that would have made the ending too difficult.), basically calling Silver out.
Here's where De Niro gives his best, uh, De Niro attitude and becomes combative - and the auditorium shakes, the electronics blow, and chunks of the ceiling fall near the audience (but hurting no one apparently). Now it's Silver's turn to be amazed, he keeps demanding of Buckley how he managed to do that but Buckley just gives him a speech on... something and tosses the quarter he's constantly twiddling in his fingers at De Niro, who catches it. The solution WAS Occam's Razor when it came to Silver's abilities - he can see. That was a bit of a duh and a silly way to prove him a fake. Oh well.
As Buckley leaves flashes of the movie show those who don't get it yet that all this time the reason Buckley was trying so hard to debunk all the fakers was that he was looking for someone like himself - a true psychic. He laments that he didn't share what he was with his friend Matheson, who wanted to believe there was something more to... us but he didn't tell her. He ends the movie telling her/us that 'You can't deny yourself forever'.
Okay, not a perfect movie, not even a great movie, but much better than the average paranormal movie and actually a bit interesting, especially the ways they showed how so-called psychics get away with their scams. It's worth a look if you need a little distraction.
Hello to all those faithfully reading and hopefully enjoying this effort to make even the worst horror movie more watcha... aw, screw that - I'm not that good. If a movie makes you cringe because yet another batch of unlikable teens that are pushing 30 are inching toward their deaths, having a party no one does anywhere ever, a paranormal movie is boring you to tears with unending pans of empty rooms, or thanks to CGI technology when people finally bite it, their blood squirts everywhere except on the victim, the ground, the people next to them... you're in good company and this is the right place for you.