‘Red Lights’ Review
An intriguing thriller ruined by the worst twist ending of all time.
Rodrigo Cortés is a director most known for directing the excellent and suspenseful contained thriller ‘Buried’ last year, which was an alarming feat and featured a taut performance by Ryan Reynolds. This time around for his follow-up film, he breaks out of the coffin and attempts at a larger supernatural thriller. The result is ‘Red Lights’, a unique and suspenseful thriller with a strong cast that unfortunately ends with the worst twist ending of all time.
The film follows paranormal researchers Margaret Matheson (Sigourney Weaver) and Tom Buckley (Cillian Murphy) who are out to debunk every claim of paranormal occurrences by refuting it with scientific facts and so far have been proven right every time. But when legendary blind psychic Simon Silver (Robert De Niro) comes out of retirement after 30 years since his biggest critic died in the middle of his show, Buckley is adamant to prove that Simon is a fraud by investigating his full-house shows. But what he sees is definitely hard to explain by science, and meddling around with Simon’s affairs leads to him having hallucinations that he can’t explain. But not everything is what it seems.
After a shaky first scene, ‘Red Lights’ catches on and hooks you right in with a story that you haven’t quite seen done like this before. We see inside the world of these paranormal investigators who are sure that it’s all set up and no such occurrences are actually what they seem. We are then treated to this brilliant sequence where they end up busting a very convincing but fake psychic during his live show, and it’s interesting to see the behind the scenes element of this world which is a good story to tell and is definitely engaging as a viewer to witness. But then comes this new character of Simon Silver who’s a psychic unlike any other and it’s a fascinating character to explore. It’s from here that the mystery aspect of the film really kicks in and makes you excited to follow Buckey’s attempt to figure out the truth of Simon. Though this isn’t technically a horror movie, there are entire parts of the film that definitely play like that with jump scares and creepy moments to satisfy that part of the audience. And I’m glad to say those sequences and the central mystery to the film actually works and intensifies as it goes on.
But then comes the ending. That ending. There have been movies like ‘Law Abiding Citizen’ that are amazing movies with a terrible final five minute scene that leaves a bad taste in your mouth, but that ending is perfect compared to what we witness here. There’s actually two twist endings to the film, one of which is about the truth of the character of Simon and is entirely predictable if you’ve seen enough movies of this kind and you can project it from a mile away. It would be fine if the film ended with just that twist, which would make the film a good but ultimately predictable and forgettable thriller. But no, ‘Red Lights’ reaches further to deliver a twist ending so moronic and out of the blue that it ends up destroying the bulk of the movie you saw before. Never before have I seen a twist ending that feels like it belongs to an entirely different movie, has nothing that leads up to it, negates all the events we saw before without answering them, and stands as a pretentious attempt by the director to have something deep to say that just fails on every level. Marketing tries to compare it to the ending to ‘The Sixth Sense’, but aside from the most simplest of comparisons, the only way it would be similar to ‘The Sixth Sense’ is if at the end of that movie Bruce Willis was revealed to be an alien from outer space sent to kill the President. It’s that out of the blue that it even recent M. Night Shyamalan twist endings will look more sane. I saw the audiences walking out of the cinema confused and frustrated, and frustration is the right reaction to a self-destructive ending like this one.
Too bad, because there’s some great characterisation there especially Sigourney Weaver’s character who actually has a fleshed out backstory to her. Her story with her son on life support started off as very gimmicky but actually took life of its own and perfectly complemented her character’s skepticism of the paranormal. Unfortunately, her character swiftly becomes unimportant to the narrative which is a damn shame. Elizabeth Olsen’s character, however, has nothing to do and ends up being a redundant addition to the film just so it can have a young female lead. Cillian Murphy is an excellent actor and it’s during intense scenes that he really shines. Sadly, his character gets the most stupid revelation at the end which ruins it all. Robert Deniro has been doing some questionable movies of late, but you’d be surprised how interesting and mysterious his character here is. He genuinely creates fear among the viewers but unfortunately is also very unimportant by the end of the film.
‘Red Lights’ has all the interesting ideas and actually delivers on most of them in most of its duration. But with a twist ending so random and poorly executed that it literally kills the film and stands as the worst I’ve ever seen, it’s ultimately a lesson to filmmakers that going for a twist ending deeper than the film before it should be a massive red light.