This 2012 thriller-drama film directed by Rodrigo Cortes stars Robert Di Nero, Cillian Murphy, Sigourney Weaver, plus many more well known names.
The film follows the story of a psychologist called Margaret Matheson and her assistant Tom, who study and attempt to end the fraud of paranormal activity. When a well-known psychic Simon Silver appears, after spending many years hiding since his toughest critic strangely disappeared, they become obsessed in finding out the truth if he is a fraud or not.
To start with, the opening credits have the first typography text appearing through large circles that decrease in size to reveal the credit; once this occurs, the typography flickers onscreen, resulting in the audience connoting that the flickers represent those of a light. Which, introduce the audience to the theme of goodness and righteousness from the start due to the colour contrast between black, representing evil forces/darkness, with light that represents the opposite.
As the white typography text fades out into the black background, in sync with the non-diegetic soundtrack’s strident sound of a crash, the next credit appears through a fade in edit, with the same flickering effect; indicating that the theme of good vs evil will recur in “Red Lights”. The music makes the audience feel tense as they are gripped onto the credits, wondering what can possibly happen. So as a shot of shadowy hands, overlays the typography for a short duration then dissolves into the background, the audience gain the impression that the film contains a dark element, allowing it to be categorised as a thriller due to shadows being a convention of the genre.
Then, when the credit of actor “Robert Di Nero” fades out to the background, another dark element flashes onscreen, but this time it’s a shot of a window, where the audience can only see it for a very short second before it fades out as well. This leaves the audience anxious because windows symbolise freedom and in the opening credits the low-key lighting makes it extremely dark, suggesting that the window is a symbol for the desire to escape as it’s an illumination of the darkness. Which means that a particular character in “Red Lights” is in a position of confinement, where they can’t escape the evilness portrayed through the antagonist.
The suspenseful music takes the audience onto the name of the film which appears through the white and red flickering light reflections seen onscreen. This time the typography text is much larger, so when certain letters flicker, it engages the audience more by heightening their interest to the film. As well as, it’s important to note that the first colour introduced in the opening sequence is red, which the colour has negative connotations of blood, sacrifice, danger and death; creating quite a foreboding tone for the audience.
Continuity editing is present next, as the flickering light reflection transforms into what appears to be an animal’s eye, that looks rather agitated and makes the audience feel apprehensive because of how at one point the eye is positioned on the right of the screen, then moves to the left of the screen. But as the eye becomes larger in size, it can suggest that the audience’s feelings of uneasiness and anxiousness will develop throughout watching the film.
The animal eye also transforms into a human eye, that still looks restless for some reason, the audience are unclear of at this point, due to the frequent cuts that make the extreme close up shot of the eye, move rapidly around onscreen. Which I find the immense detail of the eye, displayed through an extreme close up shot, makes the audience feel as if they are looking into this person’s soul; possibly hinting at the idea of “Red Lights” containing a spiritual element to it (sub genre- religious thriller).
Furthermore, this idea is reinforced when the shot of Jesus Christ fades in from a black background as light shines down on the Crucifixion cross, to suggest the symbol of conquering death, in which the audience can infer that the film centres around someone who has spiritual ability. This hints at the characters in the film who are psychics.
Moreover, the audience connote death is a major theme in “Red Lights” because of the recurrence of a skull symbol throughout the opening sequence and the increase in tempo of the soundtrack intensifies the theme of death.
As a result, the audience are left feeling tense when the sudden cut displays a photograph of a woman, giving the impression that the female character in the film may face death and other bad events/experiences. So making the audience expect “Red Lights” to conform to the thriller genre by the way the protagonist is set against a problem they have to overcome, whilst keeping the audience alert and heightening their feelings of anticipation, and excitement.
Next, another theme is explored as several close up shots of book pages with moving diagrams and writing are shown as the canted typography text appears each time there’s a cut. From looking at the diagrams on the book, it reinforces the themes portrayed earlier on of spiritual powers because it appears like some sort of codes and symbols a psychic would make when taking notes, in order to be affected/influenced by the human mind. All of which suggests to the audience that “Red Lights” is a supernatural/religious-thriller due to the themes portrayed in the opening credits.
At 1:06, the opening credits for “Red Lights” no longer uses low key lighting creating a dark atmosphere, instead it has a much more brighter look through the use of a white background. In which the audience can interpret the contrast between the black and white, metaphorically represents the evilness in the darkness against the good in the brightness; suggestive of a battle between the two forces.
The non-diegetic soundtrack transitions to present a more eerie feel to the audience when several shots reveal conventions belonging to the sci-fi genre including alien characters, and spaceships (UFO’s). Although the audience can infer the film may have a sci-fi aspect to it, the next close up shot of a newspaper headline that reads ‘…test UFO encounter’, gives the impression to the audience that “Red Lights” fits in the sub-genre of a supernatural film because the characters are attempting to overcome a paranormal force beyond scientific knowledge, in the diegesis of the film “Red Lights”.
Shortly afterwards the pace of the editing becomes much more faster, making it harder for the audience to see clearly what’s going on due to the frequent cuts between various shots allow little time for the audience to piece information together. Therefore, the audience feel anticipated and are near enough on the edge of their seats waiting for the build up of tension to be released.
Adding to this, is the powerful sounds of instruments that heighten the audience’s emotions and engagement especially towards the shot of psychic playing cards; finally indicating answers to the audience’s questions about whether the film does centre around supernatural forces, after the sly hints of this particular theme revealed throughout the opening credits.
Moreover, the thriller genre is established when a long shot uncovers the setting of where the film will take place in an urban city due to street/car lights being seen (common setting/location of thrillers), but also the theme of darkness portrayed throughout reinforces “Red Lights” connection to the thriller genre.
To end the opening credits is a shot of a television screen that has lost signal and therefore presents an unclear/fuzzy screen; the audience can interpret this as a sign for the foreboding tone created where the film has been set up with the audiences expectation of bad events to follow. As well as, quite a mysterious tone is presented because the audience don’t know what’s going to happen in the film because overall it’s very fast paced edited meaning that it’s difficult to see if any clues have been given about the antagonist; just the main themes have been expressed, allowing the audience to associate to particular genres.