Movies: Is Red Lights the worst movie about parapsychology every made? |299|

Discussion in 'Skeptiko Shows' started by Alex, Jan 5, 2016.

  1. Alex

    Alex New

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    Movies: Is Red Lights the worst movie about parapsychology every made? |299|
    by Alex Tsakiris | Jan 5 | Parapsychology

    Both parapsychology researchers and Skeptics are misrepresented in this hack job of a movie, but that’s what makes it fun to talk about.


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    photo by: Rodrigo Cortez

    I love going to the movies, but so much of the stuff I want to talk about afterwards is left unsaid. I mean, there’s only so much about the parallels between the parapsychology research report portrayed in Red Lights and the one published by Stanford Research Institute that my family and friends will listen to.

    So, I invited my buds from the oh so excellent Gimerica podcast (Darren Grimes, Graham Dunlop andRed Pill Junkie) to join me for a new segment I’m calling Skpetiko at the movies. First up, Red Lights, where professional skeptics (Cillian Murphy, Sigourney Weaver) try to prove that a famous psychic (Robert De Niro) is lying about his ability. BTW, this 2012 stinker is available for free streaming Netflix.

    There’s no transcript/excerpts for this show, just fun banter for those of us interested in a deeper look at some interesting movies.
     
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  2. Pollux

    Pollux New

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    I noticed in this movie, when I saw it some year ago, that they used at least 5 or 6 different real case-scenarios fused in to the script. I cant remember them all off the top of my head, but one of them was of course the astrology-trick Randi had come up with, and was pompous & swanky about. He took completely generic stuff (and I mean really generic stuff) and made 15 horoscopes that he gave to his 15 testsubjects/students, and they all said that some part of it was really striking for how they perceived themselves, and their goals and ambition in life etc. Then Randi told them to switch horoscope with the one sitting closest to them, and then read his/her horoscope. And of course; they were all identical. Ergo, Randi said; all horoscope are shit, and this is how they fool you.

    I know that the movie producers of Red Lights tried to take the piss out of everything paranormal, and portray every parapsychologist like they were mindless clowns etc. On the other hand; I've seen a hundred ghost-movies where the `skeptic´ in the group is a cocky bastard at first, but have to eat crow at the end of the movie. So we can let the skeptics have this "victory" with Red Lights. ;)

    I think when one watch a movie about parapsychology - and like most of us here who are very familiar with all the ins and outs of the parapsychological field - one have to leave that analysing, and over-critical, mindset at the door. Otherwise you wont enjoy any movie on this subject. It's like going to see a sci-fi movie - like Armageddon or Star Trek - with an astronomer or astrophysicist, who just cant shut the hell up. Keep yapping through the whole movie, and complaining how unrealistic things are compared to how the real space and spacetravel would work - and how blatantly impossible this and that in the movie would be in space, according to laws of physics etc.etc. and so on. Annoying as hell.

    When I watch paranormal movies I don't treat them as documentaries - and I leave my bias at the door, and let fantasy, and an open mind, entertain me for the duration. And in that sense I liked Red Lights.

    It's far from the best movie I've ever seen, but I have seen far worse movies on this subject. It lands somewhere in the middle and I was content with it. But it is not a movie that will stick to your mind, really. It was far to weak for that.

    PS: I have to watch the movie again now, so I can remember what the other five things they used from real life cases/scenarios were. Unless someone here beats me to it, and can remind me.
     
    Last edited: Jan 8, 2016
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  3. Michael Larkin

    Michael Larkin Member

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    Alex's question at the end of the podcast:

    What do you think about Red Lights the movie?
     
  4. Andrew Paquette

    Andrew Paquette Administrator

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    I'm watching it now and am really hating it. The best part of the movie so far is when the "Simon Silver" (Robert deNiro) poster is unrolled, simply because it is a nice photo. Two other movies that had the same quality (but were even harder to watch) are the recent movie "The Master" which parodies L.Ron Hubbard, and the remake of "The Manchurian Candidate" that came out in about 2005. Both of those were so wrong (as is "Red Lights") that it is impossible to watch them without feeling like I'm being slapped in the face with great big slippery lies. So far, every representation, as Alex says, is wrong. Seances, at least the ones by people like Leonore Piper or Home, are not conducted in darkened rooms. The little girl admitting to the large booming 'raps' is lifted from the Fox sisters. There is some justification for the portrayal in the sense that one of the sisters admitted to fraud late in life at a time when she sorely needed the money she was paid for the admission, but in Red Lights, it is as if the confession is accepted literally and uncritically. There are good reasons to doubt her confession, making it a poor source example. The doofus 'believer' parapsychologist is made to look ridiculous when Sigourney Weaver demonstrates that his glasses are reflecting the Zener cards he is using, thus providing ample opportunity for subjects to fake results. This is the type of thing James Randi would suggest as an explanation for successful tests, but this does not accurately represent how the tests are conducted. The example of the guy who has confederates using radios and other devices to infiltrate and report on the audience is also silly. Technically it is plausible that a setup like that could be managed, but when that type of claim is checked (as happened with John Edward and others), the audience members who are questioned deny that the information given by the medium in question was available to be overheard. The Silver character (so far) is a blend of Geller and a Brazilian guy (who I think was caught cheating, but am not sure about that) who supposedly cured people by what he called 'psychic surgery'. I've never heard of a combination like that, possibly because psychic surgery of the type familiar from the Brazilian case is a kind of sleight-of-hand trick.

    Anyway, not impressed so far, but it has just taken a dramatic turn, so I am hoping it becomes interesting soon.

    AP
     
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  5. Andrew Paquette

    Andrew Paquette Administrator

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    The parapsychologist describes extra-sensory perception as the power of 'mind over matter'. Ouch.

    AP
     
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  6. Andrew Paquette

    Andrew Paquette Administrator

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    The 'Scientific Paranormal Research Center', the SPRC--ouch again.

    AP
     
  7. I liked Ghost Busters.




     
    Last edited: Jan 6, 2016
  8. Far.From.Here

    Far.From.Here New

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    Maybe you didn't mean parody when describing "The Master" since that would imply that the makers of the film had intended a comic effect, which clearly they did not.

    I'm curious what it was about "The Master" that made you think it was so far off the mark in representing Hubbard (or at the very least someone "like" Hubbard.)
     
  9. Andrew Paquette

    Andrew Paquette Administrator

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    The melodramatic 'psychics' in this movie don't even come close to behaving like even the TV mediums the skeptics are always complaining about. It's like watching movies about all powerful evil espionage agencies or a city where every single powerful executive at every important company is run by a young, beautiful, charming, but misunderstood woman. This pure fantasy but unfortunately without the toehold in reality that it needs to be engaging.
     
  10. Andrew Paquette

    Andrew Paquette Administrator

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    Without getting into the details about LRH, while I think there is much to criticize there, the movie "The Master" was so unremittingly perverse that it came across as a really bad caricature. This ironic, since the real LRH was already a bit of a caricature to begin with. I meant 'caricature' earlier btw, not 'parody', but couldn't think of the word, but also thought 'parody' was kind of funny in the context. If "The Master" is a humorous look at the dark side, imagine how bad the reality would have to be.

    AP
     
  11. Far.From.Here

    Far.From.Here New

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    Cool. I didn't personally find "The Master" to be perverse beyond the average examined id, which seems appropriate since one of the major themes of the movie is examination of the id. Hubbard did associate with occultists Jack Parsons and probably also Crowley. Hubbard's son had this to say about his father in an interview in Penthouse:

    “Hitler was involved in the same black magic and the same occult practices that my father was. The identical ones. Which, as I have said, stem clear back to before Egyptian times. It’s a very secret thing. Very powerful and very workable and very dangerous. Brainwashing is nothing compared to it. The proper term would be ‘soul cracking.’ It’s like cracking open the soul, which then opens various doors to the power that exists, the satanic and demonic powers. Simply put, it’s like a tunnel or an avenue or a doorway. Pulling that power into yourself through another person—and using women, especially—is incredibly insidious…It is the ultimate vampirism, the ultimate mind-fuck, instead of going for blood, you’re going for their soul. And you take drugs in order to reach that state where you can, quite literally, like a psychic hammer, break their soul, and pull the power through.”
     
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  12. Andrew Paquette

    Andrew Paquette Administrator

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    Another movie with a paranormal topic that bothers me quite a lot is Audrey Rose. That movie follows a girl who remembers a previous life as someone who dies in a fire. Apart from the hokey melodrama and fake suspense added to the film, what really gets me is that the inspiration for the movie came from the author of the book it was based on, whose son might as well have walked out of an Ian Stevenson study. Because of this, he actually looked into Stevenson's work, so he can hardly claim to be naive about this type of event. The writer had firsthand experience of what this particular phenomena is like, but he reformed it into this unrecognizable Hollywoodized version anyway. It was very disappointing. Of course, the real story usually isn't dramatic at all, merely interesting, so writers may feel they have to juice up their scripts like this, but there are movies that play it straight and are plenty interesting regardless (Tora! Tora! Tora! comes to mind as a flat-toned retelling of the events of Pearl Harbor, but one that is far more interesting and dramatic than other versions that change many elements of the events they describe for the sake of adding drama).

    AP
     
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  13. K9!

    K9! New

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    I haven't seen Red Lights, and after hearing about it I probably won't... but I did enjoy this podcast and hope to hear more of this type of thing.

    It was mentioned in the show that Phillip J Klass offered a bribe to one of the members of Travis Walton's logging crew to get him to change his story. That will be mentioned in an upcoming documentary about the Travis Walton case. Peter Robbins talked about it on a recent episode of Where Did the Road Go?

    Robbins talks about that at around 57 minutes into the video.

     
    Last edited: Jan 6, 2016
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  14. malf

    malf Member

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    John of God?
     
  15. Andrew Paquette

    Andrew Paquette Administrator

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  16. Ah, if you have more of this kind of thing please post in the Dark Side of the Paranormal Thread. Thanks!
     
  17. Ian Gordon

    Ian Gordon Ninshub Member

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    On how Red Lights just portrays "what people believe about parapsychology". I get that impression a lot watching movies that reference psi et al. I think one I saw where that came to mind recently was a horror movie where ectoplasm came into the picture and some of the history and trappings of spiritualism. "The Haunting In Connecticut" (2009) I think it was. (Not worth it.)

    Woody Allen's "Magic in the Moonlight" (2014) I thought was a well-informed movie (taking place in the 1920s) about spiritualism, mediumship, skepticism, etc. Of course its slant was the usual Allen world-view about all of this being bunk because of his (IMO extremely-boring-because-repeated-in-every-single-film-he's-ever-made) mantra that we live in a "God-less, meaningless, accidental universe". I thought the movie itself was pretty awful.

    But it brought to mind his 1982 "A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy", which touched to some lesser degree on the same subjects and is a gem (again IMO). I posted this on the forum elsewhere before, but I thought it presented brilliantly, in the character of the Professor Leopold (this takes place at the beginning of the 20th century or so), the "manly materialist scientism" ethos born out of the Victorian era (and still with us!):

    Professor Leopold (José Ferrer) in conversation with another character:
    - Ghosts? Little spirits or pixies? I don't believe in 'em. Do you, Mr Foxx?
    - No, sir.
    - You sound it, with all your metaphysical gibberish.
    - I didn't mean ghosts as spirits, Professor.
    - Nothing is real but experience - that which can be touched, tasted, felt or, in some scientific fashion, proved. We must never substitute qualitative events that are marked by similar properties and recurrences for fixed substances.
    - I take it you rule out metaphysics as unworthy of serious consideration.
    - As I stated quite clearly in my latest paper, metaphysical philosophers are men who are too weak to accept the world as it is.Their theories of the so-called "mysteries of life" are nothing more than projections of their own inner uneasiness. Apart from this world, there are no realities.
    - But that leaves many basic human needs unanswered.
    - I'm sorry. I did not create the cosmos. I merely explain it.


    http://www.script-o-rama.com/movie_scripts/m/midsummer-nights-sex-comedy-script.html

    You can get a peek at this character here at 3:24:
     
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