We Bought a Zoo
A widowed father played by Matt Damon moves to the South Californian country and purchases a zoo with his family
On Film4: 6 Sep 6:25PM
Skeptical psychologists Sigourney Weaver and Cillian Murphy confront the possibly psychic (and probably dangerous) Robert De Niro in this paranormal thriller
Red Lights is a game of three halves - and no, I don't mean thirds. The film has two distinct conventional halves, the first of which builds tension while the second lays on the scares and surprises. But then there's an addendum, one full of preposterous surprises and unanswered questions. It isn't a third act - it's a cankerous growth that sits very uncomfortably on what otherwise might have been a complete film.
Sigourney Weaver is a world-renowned psychologist who specialises in debunking paranormal claims, alongside her protege Cillian Murphy. Enter Robert De Niro as the almost demonic Simon Silver, a once-famous TV psychic, spoon-bender and all-round spooky guy who just might be the real deal. Silver is a perfect fit for De Niro, who chews through his scenes - including some atrociously corny moments - and he's quite the imposing presence. Of course Weaver and Murphy are fascinated by the challenge he presents, but some exploding AV equipment and rumours of Silver's shady past lead the pair to suspect they might be in danger.
Acting as both writer and director, Cortes displays the same aptitude for subtlety and tension as he did with Buried. Weaver's trademark dry wit is as enjoyable as ever, and it bounces off of Murphy's mopey naivety rather well - but that's about as far as their interplay goes and it feels a trifle underplayed. Added to this, we're offered a great cast who are little more than set dressing - something especially true for Elizabeth Olsen who pops up to fret whenever it's convenient, without the burden of characterisation.
Despite some clunky exposition, the bulk of Red Lights is rather decent, even scary at times. Like a backwards magic show we're treated to all the fun of unravelling the 'trick', with the added eerie promise that maybe the lady really did get sawn in half. This is, of course, until that final section which throws sense out of the window in a fit of orgiastic madness. Characters are written out with little fanfare, and bananas plot twists are written in as though they'd been there all along. Red Lights is spooky, enjoyable and glossy up until a point, but the ridiculous finale very nearly ruins everything that this taut little thriller had going for it.
Cortes asks his audience to do what his characters refuse: to accept the illogical without seeking justification or reason. It sours what was otherwise a solid, if a little dry, attempt at paranormal thrills.
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