Red Lights gradually burns out as it illuminates several uninspired non-sensical clichés. “If your mum was one of those people who went to see a psychic because, umm her stomach was bothering her and the psychic told her that it was nothing, that it was just a touch of gastritis. But then later on, you find out it was stomach cancer and it’s too late to treat. Do you think you’d say “Why bother?””. Mentalism, the supposed ability to channel extrasensory phenomena to read minds, move objects and cure individuals riddled with health deficiencies through the power of thought alone, is a dangerous intuition. To sceptics, it is a performance demonstrated by fraudulent practitioners to deceive the gullible in generating a monetary business. Simply put, general entertainment for the audience’s enjoyment. However, to those that yearn to seek fulfilment from body deterioration or contact with the afterlife, mentalism acts as a gateway to appease one’s soul. Regardless of the exposed psychological suggestion or background research on the plethora of social media platforms.
Cortés’ illusory thriller revolves around a university professor and her physicist assistant assigned with proving the non-existence of paranormal phenomena by investigating such accusations. A seance where the mentalist utilises their feet to supposedly levitate a table, not the spirit. A successful performer equipped with ear pieces so that information regarding specific audiences members can be fed through, perceived to be “psychic”. A refreshingly intellectual stance, enhanced by psychological lectures provided by Matheson, that withholds the capacity to captivate through mindful stimulation. The central characters developed adequately to explain their personal reasonings for debunking supposedly supernatural occurrences, supplying weight to their moral choices. Weaver showcasing her commanding yet calm presence alongside Murphy’s tenacious behaviour, which soon translates to obsession when they struggle to discredit renowned psychic Silver, ominously played by De Niro. Its core message is strongly bounded by the act of self-belief. What you, as a conscious human being, choose to believe in.
Unfortunately, the intellectual approach of the first half soon dissipates into a clichéd unimaginative jump scare-athon to comply with every other generic thriller available. As soon as a certain character dies, signifying the transition into the second half, Cortés rapidly loses all control of what was a promising feature. Every other minute contained a piercing jump scare to derail that sense of security, however the scares themselves were mundane due to the noticeable lack of atmospheric tension. The plot gradually convolutes itself, with Matheson’s team attempting to identify Silver as a fraud, until the very final five minutes where the entire story no longer makes any sense. The twist irrefutably does not work. It just doesn’t, from any angle! All of the inexplicable incidents that plagued these characters in the second half, were made to be pointless at that exact revelatory moment.
And it’s a dire shame that the paranormal stance overwhelmed the scientific approach, as the controlled tests were riveting to examine. Yet these moments of excellence were marred with abhorrent editing in the middle of character conversations. A scene would cut, and the characters would essentially reset their emotions for the next line of delivery. There was no continuous flow of natural discussion. However Cortés is able to edit visual clues throughout, minus the climactic montage that spoon-feeds all the preceding information, demonstrating his ability as an editor. He just needs more practice.
Red Lights, after a promising start, ends as an uninspired mess that will fail to brighten up anyone’s day. The investigative stance into paranormal phenomena was a welcomed change of pace. If only Cortés had the confidence to maintain that approach throughout, it could’ve been a stimulating experience.