It is never easy to churn out a piece of cinema that truly stands out amidst the mass market productions. Writer-Director Rodrigo Cortés (of Buried fame) dishes out yet another novelty concept with Red Lights, though its good premise, interesting dialogues and credibly effective scares may have been better coupled with a good story at its core.
Walking into the theatre without a single prior knowledge of the film, I didn't expect much from Red Lights until its opening premise sends a good atmosphere of mystery and hinting horror up the audience's spines with a lasting tingle. At the end of the opening scene, the film's opening credit sequence should well inform one of its X-Files vibes where the protagonists, Margaret Matheson (Sigourney Weaver) and Tom Buckley (Cillian Murphy), will go to all ends just to translate supernatural psychic claims into logic with science. Such trickery is addressed as "red lights" by the pair of paranormal investigators, thus the film title.
The middle act then begins to build anticipatory tension around its antagonist Simon Silver (Robert De Niro), a blind psychic who has marvelled his legion of fans with unbelievable abilities. Of course, as per its genre obligation, Matheson and Buckley eventually get attracted to the mysteries behind Silver. So this is where the film relentlessly banks up high on the creeps and chills (though not as comparable with the impeccable sense of claustrophobic dread instilled by Cortés' previous film Buried) with ever-pounding mystery, leaving the audience to the mercy of their treated senses and at the same time not knowing where it all leads to.
Without much background detailing of the characters, it is very much a current chapter of these characters narrated with good technical storytelling. With the use of effective sound, music (Victor Reyes), and editing (Cortés himself), the scares don't just end at the moment of revelation. They linger on and build up tension within the audience, which deserves credit for. Not forgetting the visual excellence in photography by Xavi Giménez (of The Machinist fame).
One just simply looks towards the end of it all, in anticipation of a mystery unravelling. But no, you get something that is totally unexpected by most.
A twist that amazes most and leaves them thinking (think Saw, The Sixth Sense, and in a way, Buried). However, after much thought, they trail off with the inability to account for the sudden influx of plot pieces tying up its ends. Cortés seems to be making up for the lack of a credible core story with a theatrical plot-stopping trickery, otherwise known as Red Lights.