Red Lights Movie Shocking Ending Explained

Red Lights Movie Shocking Ending Explained

Red Lights Movie Shocking Ending Explained - because this is a marvelous movie that needs to be grappled with.
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The movie Red Lights initially came out in 2012. I, apparently, was locked away in a comatose state. I was being experimented on by aliens. I had been kidnapped, and drugged for the duration of 2012. Something. Because you know what, I’ve literally never heard of this movie before. What is worse? Red Lights stars Cillian Murphy, Sigourney Weaver, and has Robert flipping De Niro in it. EH?! Yeah, I’m going to go with abducted by aliens, stored in a cryogenic freezer on Mars, and experimented on for the entire duration of 2012. What the heck? Even better, the movie is basically a modern day rewrite of the film The Prestige, with really clever twists and turns all throughout. I literally cannot recommend this movie enough to you. Don’t be like me, and continue, trapped in the cryogenic freezer on Mars, when you can free yourself by clicking this link right here on Peacock for free, Tubi for free, or rent it on Google Play. Regardless, whatever you do, do not continue on with this post unless you actually watch the film. Deal? DEAL!?!? Good. Alright, let’s get to it, Red Lights Movie Shocking Ending Explained.

And as always, I will take it personally if you watch that trailer before watching the movie. Just trust me on this one. And if you don’t trust me, trust Patreon subscriber Erika. And if you don’t trust her… trust Patreon subscriber Lisa. And if you don’t trust her, trust Chris_T… oh wait, he’s getting married tomorrow. Who knows what state he is in right now. I can’t have him vouch for me. Listen. Just watch this movie.

Red Lights Walkthrough

The screenplay by Rodrigo Cortés (Buried) for this movie is really amazing in that it is marinated in backstory and dripping in deeper meaning even in spite of our never really seeing these backstories. Each character has pasts that are opaque, and everyone has reasons to be open to, and simultaneously skeptical of, the divine. Skeptical of extrasensory powers, skeptical of anything tightly outside of the logically scientific. But what is the setup…it’s dastardly simple. Psychologist Margaret Matheson (Sigourney Weaver – uh… everyone knows Sigourney… but in case you just came from that Mars Freezer… the Alien series, as well as Avatar, and a million other blockbusters. I really should have a Sigourney shibboleth for regular genuflection.) and her assistant (played by Cillian – 28 Days Later, The Dark Knight, Inception, etc etc etc) study “paranormal” activity with the intent of rooting out hoaxes. Eventually, a world renowned psychic (Robert De Niro… no, I refuse, just leave if you don’t know De Niro) reappears intent to prove that the paranormal really is real.

Red Lights Movie Shocking Ending Explained

And, can I say, this script is a perfect screenplay to understand how best to manipulate the audience and set them up for a surprise. All the really great screenplays authors do this sort of technique that lulls the audience into a bit of a hubristic vantage point, and then, when the rug is pulled out from under them, they are all the more surprised. You see it right? The movie opens with two researchers going to a house where paranormal activity is happening, PARANORMAL IS REAL!! No. Guys, no it isn’t. Here’s a cool table trick. And the kid…the kid is the one doing the banging. Oh. Huh. OK. What about this other time, a levitating Indian? Trampoline. And ESP card shapes? Glasses reflections. More importantly, a performance with ESP like knowledge of the people in the audience? It’s all about a secret communication from the balcony and research assistance before the show. Oh. Got it. So the PARANORMAL ISN’T REAL. Right. We are all on the same page.

Oh, but now, here comes Silver, the greatest psychic the world has ever seen. This one might be different. But, as we’ve been taught already, when we were clearly shown in the proceeding hour that paranormal doesn’t exist, this can’t be real. But OK, let’s see if we can figure out how he is fooling us ourselves. So we feel as though we are a part of Dr.Buckley and Dr. Matheson’s team. We are watching closely now (yes, yes that was an intentional homage.). He has to be a fraud after all. Which is literally how the ending becomes so interesting.

As the movie barrels to the finale, there are several forces you have to keep track of in your mind. The first is that of Dr. Buckley and Dr. Matheson. The good guys. The team of logic and scientific method. Then there is the college’s research team delving into para-sciences, led by Paul Shackleton (played by Toby Jones, known for Sherlock, Hunger Games, etc.). His goal is to certify Silver as a legitimate paranormal psychic, thus increasing his odds at more funding at the college. He’s spent days with Silver investigating his techniques, and he is certain that Silver is not pulling any fast ones on them. But Matheson has already shown that Shackleton could be fooled, really by anyone, he wants to believe. And then there is Silver. Silver has been out of the spotlight for years after his number one detractor died at a show of his of a heart attack. Many believe that Silver used his powers to kill this person investigating him. And now, history is repeating itself because Matheson, too, dies under curious circumstances. Which fuels Buckley all the more to figure out what Silver is up to. So he puts Ben, a student of his, on the assignment. And eventually Sally (played by Elizabeth Olsen who you should know from Martha Marcy May Marlene, and not know her for the crappy movies she was in, in the Avengers Universe.) – who I didn’t explain, is the love interest for Dr. Buckley. (You know, the requisite professor/bright-student relationship when we have a movie on a college campus.) – shows up to help out. And the two of them figure out that Silver is lying about being blind. That’s the trick!

Red Lights Movie Shocking Ending Explained because this movie needs some explaining

Silver – “We called Ptolemy insane. Spat in the face of Galileo. We burned Giordano Bruno at the stake. What do we need in order to learn?”

But before Dr. Buckley figures this out for himself, he’s attacked by some sort of Silver henchman who is determined to dissuade Dr. Buckley from continuing to search for the trick in Silver’s routine. But thankfully, Buckley makes it out of that encounter alive. More determined than ever, he heads out into the performance hall, where Silver just completed a levitation routine. Buckley though is done with the charades. He knows that Silver is a fraud, but he doesn’t know how. And as the two men have a show down of words, weird things begin happening. Lights explode. Ceiling falls to the stage. Scaffolding collapses. All manner of havoc. Obviously this is Silver proving to Dr. Buckley his power. Or not.

Eventually Buckley takes his ubiquitous coin and flips it up to Silver on the stage. And in that moment, the audience (both in the movie, and at home) realize that Silver definitely can see. But Silver doesn’t care, because now all he wants to know is how Buckley thrashed the performance hall. What powers does he possess that Silver doesn’t? After Buckley explains to the viewing audience that he is the one who actually possesses the supernatural, paranormal powers. We assumed that it was Silver that was causing all of the strange things in his life to happen. The bird flying into the window. The apartment’s destruction. We misunderstood it to be Silver when actually it was Buckley. And the reason that Dr. Buckley sought out Dr. Matheson was solely to help Buckley find out if his gifts were an anomaly, or if there were others like him. Make sense?

And now for my Patreon members – I’ll dive a little bit on the really interesting details regarding faith, transcendent belief, and the deeper discussion that the movie really grapples with. If you’d like to sign up to be a Patreon member, and enjoy a whole raft of other benefits like reading the rest of this review, you can sign up here.

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Look, I won’t lie to you. The movie is clever, and interesting on the face of it. Paranormal Fraud Hunters seek out the world’s fraudsters, and bag the biggest of them all. But, in so doing, we learn that one of the fraud-hunters is himself a paranormal savant. It’s clever. It’s surprising. But there is so much more going on in this movie that is worth investigating.

The subtext of the movie that is alluded to, but never really discussed head on, is a simple one… Is There Something Out There? Are We Alone? Dr. Matheson herself carries the weight of this question on her back throughout the entirety of the movie. We learn the reason – and that is because her child, at a young age, fell into a coma, and that she had been living to keep up hope, to keep him alive in the hopes that one day he might wake. But she admits to us, the only reason for doing so is because of her belief that there is nothing beyond death. She fears ejecting her son out into nothing, and she would like to believe that there is something more in the great beyond, but she can’t because she can only see fraudsters and hucksters.

My Own Personal Story

I don’t generally talk much about my childhood…but it is highly relevant to this particular story. I grew up deeply enmeshed in the Pentecostal Church. So much so, I’ve considered writing a book about some of the things I’ve seen. To give you an idea of what the book would be about, I’d entitle it, “What I Saw at the Carnival.” For example, I remember one poignant moment, while at a church summer camp, sitting among bunk beds with my camp counselors as they attempted to teach all of us how to speak in tongues. The histrionics went on for hours as the camp counselors attempted to convince us to let the gibberish out. That our spiritual language might only begin with one gibberish word, and that over time we will learn more and more about our spiritual language.

And yet, I am still deeply spiritual… I still believe in God in spite of these insane shenanigans. So I am strangely well suited to talk about the deeper story here that this movie is getting at.

Here's why the movie Red Lights Shocking Ending Explained

The Layers Beneath the Layers Evolve

If you’ve seen the movie The Discovery on Netflix, you’ve seen another movie like Red Lights that discusses this deeper question about the faith that is necessary to be an atheist. And the relief that comes with belief. It’s an interesting perspective to flip the story on its face and consider just how much faith is required to believe in nothing. It can cause heaps of fear – all caused by stepping out onto that cliff. But the abyss beyond is so daunting.

Having grown up in a section of the church that was filled with revivals, healing services, and other crazy stunts, I’ve seen a lot. And, like the movie Red Lights, I know that MOST of what I saw was fake. Faith healers, lining people up, and smacking people in the forehead one after the other as hundreds of people fell under the influence of the Holy Ghost? I mean. Come on. One of the perennial favorite faith healer moves was when a “cripple” person had one leg that was longer than another? They’d put them up on stage, pray, elaborately…in tongues, gesticulating wildly, and then suddenly, the leg would “grow” until it was even! Hallelujah. Amen brother. God is at work in this house tonight! It doesn’t take a doctorate or rocket scientist to realize that anyone could reproduce this miraculous encounter without even trying.

But do I believe that God doesn’t intervene? No. I believe that He created the sun, moon, and stars. He’s the ingenious mind behind the giraffe, and the hammerhead shark. Can He intervene on your behalf and cure you? Yes. But if I were an infinite God, I surely wouldn’t use hucksters and Pentecostal charlatans to get my word out. And yet I still believe in the supernatural.

A few moments in the film were really interesting to me, that I really have to talk about. The first one was when Silver said, “Since ancient times, mankind has believed that we are rational. I don’t tend to agree.” And it’s an interesting point he is making here. One I totally agree with. Yet, it’s coming from the mouth of the chief huckster and charlatan of the film. But could it be something that Buckley would have said, if given the opportunity at the end? In the world of the Torah, or the Old Testament, there was no Jewish word for Spiritual. Why? Because it was believed that everything was Spiritual. It is only in modern times that we have bifurcated our minds into things that are Spiritual, and other things that are not Spiritual. Why is that? I really don’t know. Personally, I see this blog post as spiritual. I see my friendships as spiritual. I understand that my work is spiritual, and my play is spiritual. So I readily agree with this sentiment of Silver’s, that mankind is not rational. Sure, the scientific method helped advance man’s knowledge of many scientific discoveries, but that doesn’t mean man is rational. We should allow for the possibility that the deeper meaning of man, the deeper core of us all is a spiritual reserve that cries out to that ineffable desire for more.

Another moment, was when Sally asks Buckley if he has a transcendent belief. I absolutely love the way that is phrased. Do I believe in the transcendent? And yes, I absolutely do. Do you? And that encompasses a lot for me. God, angels, Satan, demons. I believe that these things all exist, that they are there, just beyond. But they don’t matter. The only thing that really matters is our relationship with God. His intervention on my behalf (and yours) and our ability to live in relationship with Him.

And ultimately, just before Silver is unmasked as a fraud, he says this: “You think you all have all the time in the world. That nothing is final. And yet, time goes on.” That’s what this film is all about. It’s the perpetual question all humans have, when faced with the brink. We are all running out of time. The question is simple, yet utterly complex, is there something in the great beyond.

Listen. If you are an atheist, and you think people of faith are idiots, you aren’t thinking clearly. It requires just as much faith to believe in nothing, as it does in something. And if you believe in the transcendent, and think that atheists are idiots, you aren’t thinking clearly. Does that make sense? The question is universal. And to dismiss someone that thinks differently than yourself is just the pure definition of ignorance. We are in this together. We all have to make this same key decision together. And, at the end of the day, we are all brothers, struggling to understand that which is beyond our grasp ultimately.


At the end of the day – the movie is about finding peace. Finding peace with God in the face of science that seems to counter Him. Or finding peace in the face of nothing that is staring you down. Dr. Matheson died struggling in the face of nothing – afraid that there was nothing in the great abyss beyond. She was keeping hope alive for her son, hope that he’d have another moment in the sun before he dies and heads into oblivion. But Dr. Buckley pulls the ceiling down on Silver. And he also pulls the plug on Dr. Matheson’s son. Why? Because Buckley’s existence is proof of the great beyond. Either that, or Buckley is a fraud, oh, and by the way, he’s also a cold-hearted murderer. Which makes no sense.

We are all here – struggling to make this decision together. Do we believe in the afterlife? Do we not? If you don’t believe, it requires just as much faith to believe. Know this, you have my respect regardless of what decision you make in this life long struggle that is life. This movie was clever in that it causes us all to think about the larger questions of life. And all while having a great ride along the way. I’ve said my peace. What did you guys think about the movie?

Edited by: CY