Each year when the Sundance Film Festival rolls around, when I pick up my credentials and film guide, I meticulously go through the list, reading the synopses, checking out the cast and credits, and trying to plot out a schedule that allows me to see everything that I want to see. (Fellow HDD writer Aaron Peck does it slightly different: he makes his schedule weeks in advance.) If a film is playing that features a director or a cast member whose work I enjoy, then I make that film a priority. I know that it's not supposed to be that way, that I'm supposed to walk in with an open mind expecting to see the bright new filmmakers of tomorrow – but considering the amount of bad films playing at the festival, sometimes you've got to bank on what appears to be a sure thing. From Rodrigo Cortez of 'Buried' fame and starring one of my personal favorites, Cillian Murphy, 'Red Lights' made my list.
No matter how hard I tried, I just could not make it to a 'Red Lights' screening. During the Press & Industry, screening I was committed to conduct interviews. During a public screening, I had to catch another screening for a movie that I was set to do interviews for the next day. And just when I thought I might catch the last showing, I learned that it was a locals-only screening, playing specifically for the folks living in the immediate Park City, Utah area. Because I live 35 minutes away, I wasn't allowed into that showing, so I didn't catch it at Sundance.
As press, you're always confined to tight places with lots of other people – be it a lined queue waiting to get into a screening, or sitting in a theater waiting for a screening to start, or sardined in a bus that shuttles you to the various theaters around the snow-covered city. A lot of people are always around, a lot of people who have seen a lot of movies. Because everyone up there carries an exclusive air about them, everyone is a critic. And every single person talking about 'Red Lights' had the same thing to say about it: a great movie completely ruined by a terrible ending. Having finally seen 'Red Lights' now that it's on Blu-ray, what do I think about it? It's not nearly as bad as everyone says it is.
Cillian Murphy plays the central character in 'Red Lights,' the assistant to a doctor (Sigourney Weaver) who specializes in debunking paranormal activities. Together, they travel to sites of strange unexplainable occurrences and reveal them for the hoaxes that they are. These two are vicious, as if they have some unexplained vendetta against "psychic" frauds. In their fictional world, mind-readers, telepaths and healers seem to hold high social relevance. News of the world's best psychic (Robert De Niro) coming out of retirement is breaking news. People pay thousands of dollars to attend his shows. When it's announced that he's coming to town for a few sold-out shows, our two myth-busters couldn't be more apart in opinion. The master doesn't want to investigate and debunk the showman's abilities and the apprentice seems hellbent on it – whether his boss wants to or not. What ensues is a tale of obsession shrouded in mystique.
About that ending … I don't find it nearly as abhorrent as most. I know what the complaint is, but I don't understand why it is deemed a deal-breaker. The reveal might not be as grand as the filmmakers hoped it would be, but it's not awful and it sure doesn't ruin everything established prior to it. I wasn't entirely satisfied with the climax until a voiced-over narration kicked in, one that firmly established the tone and meaning for every occurrence in the film. When the curtain was closed, I actually found myself wanting to play it over again. Knowing what you know from the ending could potentially make a second viewing very entertaining, as you'd find clues and hints to the big finale. If anything, a random scene that occurs prior to the climax is more off-putting than the ending itself. Unless the final scenes were re-cut or re-edited from the original Sundance cut, I don't get what all the complaints are about.
Do I love 'Red Lights?' No. But I find it a worthy Blu-ray experience, a film well worth giving a viewing or two.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Millenium has placed 'Red Lights' on a Region A BD-25 in a single-disc vortex keepcase. The coolest physical part of this release is the black matte slipcover that has some glossy embossing. The slipcase features a front cover that opens to reveal images and text. Most slipcases don't wow me, but this one did. A group of skippable videos play before the main menu – a load screen, an FBI warning, a Millenium vanity reel and trailers for 'The Babymakers,' 'Intruders' and 'The Paperboy.'
'Red Lights' is presented with a pretty good 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio.
Knowing that the main feature was dark in tone, design and style, I was initially worried about the disc size, but the lack of special features helps the movie's compression. Blacks are very deep and consuming. Just like the storyline, the darkness hides details shrouds the story in secrecy. Heavy shadows create a dark abyss and the lack of a gray middle ground also adds to this design decision. Fleshtones are mostly a cooler shade of pale than real life, but also carry the hue of the surrounding environment. With the title 'Red Lights,' you can expect a frequent red lighting, at which time the fleshtones carry a vividly saturated red hue.
Being a very dark film, it's not filled with shots that reveal intense details, but that doesn't mean they don't exist. Every close-up shows the strong amount of detail captured – from pores to facial scruff.
Compression errors are completely absent. Noise is completely absent. Bands are non-existent. Aliasing never arises, nor do artifacts.
'Red Lights' has been given a lossless 5.1 Dolby TrueHD audio mix. Being a small indie film, you may not expect much from it, but it's just as strong as most of the studio mixes out there.
At the start of 'Red Lights,' a nice amount of environmental ambiance caught me off guard. When our primary characters start investigating their first paranormal home, LFE and dynamically mixed effects become prevalent. Those behind this mix weren't afraid to use volume to their advantage. Unexpected effects tend to blare loud and startle, be it an LFE-laced bang or rear-channel phone ringing. The effects of this mix are used in an effective and efficient manner. The vocals and the music are mixed well, but not as exceptionally as the effects.
All-in-all, the audio of 'Red Lights' is much better than expected.
'Red Lights' isn't the best movie ever, but it's a worth checking out. Paranormal thrillers don't particularly reel me in, but with a cast and filmmaker like this, I couldn't help but be interested - no matter how negative the response was at Sundance 2012. Like any other indie flick, a unique style was applied to this 'Red Lights' that separates it from other similar flicks. The video and audio qualities is above that of most little indie movies. I believe that the absence of compression errors is due to the lack of special features. A few extras are included, but nothing worth watching. If you're looking for something new and unique, give 'Red Lights' a chance. Trust me - it's better than most press are giving it credit for.