Been enjoying some Jack’s Abby Octoberfest, watching a movie I picked up earlier this week on a blind buy. The movie is Red Lights and boasts a cast that includes Sigourney Weaver, Robert DeNiro and a personal favorite, Cillian Murphy. I’ve finished the movie and four pints of Jack’s and I’m ready to tell you what’s what about this blind buy.
Spoilers ahead. I give everything away. Continue at your own risk. Actually it’s quite little risk as I’ll advise you up front to walk away from this one. So much potential destroyed in the last ten minutes.
The movie is about investigating the supernatural. It follows a couple scientists (Weaver and Murphy) whose job it is to investigate and ultimately disprove the supernatural. We start the movie off with your typical seance fare and the cons that go along with it such as moving tables and loud bangs, all of which are described to you the viewer to drive home the point that what seems supernatural will always have a explanation.
Being a part-time skeptic myself I was immediately drawn in by the many examples of trickery employed by the movie. Anyone who has watched a single documentary on James Randi will immediately pick up on several real-life examples of his work in disproving the supernatural. For example the exposure of Peter Popoff which included radio transmissions recorded at one of Popoff’s events in which his wife feeds him details to use in his act. A near word-for-word transcription of which is used in the movie. In fact Popoff’s Wikipedia article even mentions this.
Then there’s James Randi’s astrology experiment which is also duplicated in the film.
Immediately recognizing Randi’s influence in the script made me quite hopeful and drew me in deeper.
DeNiro plays a psychic coming out of retirement. Weaver and Murphy, being paranormal investigators, will naturally look into DeNiro and finally prove him for the fraud he is.
DeNiro was in typical DeNiro form, although in one scene with his head tilted to his side and nodding as he spoke his lines felt almost like he was performing an awkward self-parody of himself. In fact I would say the actors performed incredibly well. It’s the script that failed here, because the writer or writers had to just stick a twist ending into this one and it’s an annoyingly obvious and stupid one too.
The twist is simply this, DeNiro is a fraud, of course, but someone else in the movie is NOT. The film, after spending so much effort and energy using preexisting cases (Randi’s work) about the fraudulent nature of the paranormal, destroys everything and every ounce of credibility it had by, at the last minute, saying “Hey, all that shit was bullshit, sure, but this one here, this one is really real! So hey, paranormal stuff? It’s real. HA HA!”
Fuck you writer or writers.
So let’s think of something better to end that film on, shall we? In my drunken state I’ll give you a better ending.
One or both of the paranormal investigators discover something that they were certain was fake was real, but not real in a paranormal sense, real in a physics can prove it sense. That they started to take their skepticism too far and were making crude assumptions and needed to look themselves in the mirror before confronting the beliefs of others. The movie ends reminding skeptics to not be overconfident or dismissive and it reminds everyone else that everybody is human, human capacity does have its limits, and there are things beyond what we perceive those limits to be. For example, Weaver’s character has a son who is comatose and has been since he was 4. Perhaps he wakes up? Perhaps her fear that there truly is nothing after life, which drives her to keep her son alive and not “pull the plug”, is finally confronted and she allows herself a moment to accept there may be things beyond her ability to know or understand and to accept that and that it’s even okay to have hope about those things we do not know.
Naw. Fuck deep introspection about the human condition. Let’s just piss it all away on a cheap fucking last-minute twist.