Much of the inspiration for the film is taken from real life. A psychic who began his career by “psychically” bending spoons but then disappeared into obscurity, only to re-emerge decades later – remind you of anyone?
Another psychic in the film, Leonardo Palladino, uses information fed to him via a hidden earpiece to convince the audience at his show that he is obtaining personal details psychically. Matheson and Buckley expose him by tuning into the radio frequency of his accomplice’s transmitter, leading to his arrest and imprisonment.
There can be no doubt that this scene is inspired by the notorious Reverend Peter Popoff, whose identical scam was exposed in 1986 by James Randi using just such a method.
Viewers with some knowledge of paranormal research will enjoy trying to figure out the techniques used by the fake psychics in Red Lights before the main characters reveal them. I did wonder if the film did a disservice to parapsychologists by implying that they are all totally incompetent, like the bumbling Professor Shackleton, played by Toby Jones. Any parapsychologist worth their salt would not have been fooled by the techniques used by the fake psychics in this film.
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I highly recommend clicking the link above and reading this fantastic review. In it, Professor French (whom I love to read and hear speak), reviews the various times psychics were investigated by scientists and their tricks were exposed by people like James Randi. He also points out the subtleties he noticed in the movie regarding parapsychology and the famous psychic names thrown into the film for those in the know. He recommends the movie and he made me want to see it.