The scariest moment in Rodrigo Cortez’s Red Lights involves no horror of the traditional sense. There is no leaping cat or spooky apparition, no herd of tarantulas or masked madman.
There is only the cheekbones of Cillian Murphy.
Oh pah you say, those are MARVELOUS cheekbones, resting ever so high upon the side of that slender yet sexy face, matched only by the man's handball sized eyeballs overflowing with an ocean of blue. Sure, smitten readers, Cillian Murphy is indeed an unusually handsome man, but when you put his head in the physical hands of a blind man who is feeling the structure in the way blind people handshake, the worrywart in me can only think, "Oh! Those bones have got to be sharp!"
But onto the movie. The movie with the cheekbones.
Quick Plot: Meet Margaret and Tom, a platonic pair of academics who travel the country to disprove paranormal phenomena. Tom is a physics wizard with aforementioned killer cheekbones, while Margaret is played by Sigourney Weaver as that intelligent and no-nonsense-yet-great-sense-of-humor-holding career woman that only Sigourney Weaver can actually play. As they face losing funding for their research, Tom urges Margaret to go after the big fish that is Simon Silver.
How big a fish is he? Are you talkin' to me? Are you askin' ME how big a fish--
Man, I never thought it would be that hard to impersonate Robert Dinero in blog form. They don't teach you that at antiparanormal investigations university.
Yes folks, that's Travis Bickle in the flesh as a John Edward style psychic who wowed the world then retired after a skeptic had a heart attack during one of his performances. Margaret had an unsettling run-in with the man some years earlier, but Tom is undeterred. On his side is the always lovely Elizabeth Olsen as a student in his antiparanormal university class--
Oh. Maybe I should try to explain.
Like many white collar intellectuals with a high education but lack of worldly skills, Tom and Margaret moonlight as, I think, college professors at the same university where Toby Jones works as a professor trying to find evidence supporting the existence of psychic phenomena. Or something. It's confusing, but I think the point is that in this country, there are indeed high level universities that offer majors in both Psychic Studies and Psychic Studies Are Bullshit. It's nice to know young people still have choices in this economy.
I know I should be getting back to the mystery of Simon Silver, but there's something far more distracting to discuss:
Seriously. They play a couple. It's disturbing for so many reasons.
Remember how Jennifer Garner's first marriage to her RA on Felicity was kind of creepy because in addition to both being pretty, the couple could essentially pass for siblings?
That's part of the case here, as Cillian Murphy and Elizabeth Olsen are both unusual looking people, making it strange (or fitting?) that they would end up being attracted to one another. We can imagine their hauntingly Skeletor-like baby with a mixture of fear and fascination, but pause to consider how incredibly round their offspring's baby blues would be.
Now try to get to sleep tonight.
The idea of an Olsemurphy superbaby taking over the world is far scarier than anything in Red Lights, especially since this film is less thriller than drama. None of that is clear until about 2/3rds of the way in, as the mixed tone takes its time deciding what type of movie to be. That’s something of a problem.
As Cortes proved with a coffin-trapped Ryan Reynolds in Buried, he's a director fully capable of generating suspense. Even when the story becomes lackluster, there is some genuine tension watching a few grad students (at the School For And Against the Paranormal) try to solve the mystery of Simon Silver's secret (and yes, maybe I did just write that sentence to annoy those with lisps)
Had Red Lights been billed a little clearer as a drama, I think most of my (and I assume, may other viewers’) problems would have been much smaller. The film remains rather confused, but a good deal of that perception might be my own
Blind people wear watches too
Bug-eyed beauties are naturally attracted to other bug-eyed beauties. We can only assume that when they reproduce, their progeny will quickly ascend to Super Mother Bug status and leave us brown-eyed bores at the bottom of the food chain
The average man dreams 27 times a night
So long as you don't approach Red Lights expecting a tense horror movie, you might find it enjoyable as a bit of a mystery. The cast is better than the material deserves while also being blander than it should be, but there are some fun moments of tension. Think of it like a sort of poor man's Prestige if The Prestige was already on discount. As a quick Netflix stream, one could do worse.