RED STATE, 2011
Stars: Michael Parks, Melissa Leo, John Goodman, Anna Gunn, Michael Angarano, Nicholas Braun, Ronnie Connell
After a group of teens accept an online invitation for group sex, though they soon encounter Pastor Abin Cooper (Parks), his followers, and their sinister agenda.
“Red State” is Kevin Smith’s latest film and even though it’s going to be released in 2011 I’ve been hearing about it since 2007. The first draft of the script was written around the same time Kevin Smith was writing “Zach and Miri Make a Porno.” He was apparently planning to film the two back to back, but had a hard time securing funding for the religious themed horror thriller starring John Goodman and not the wacky sex comedy starring Seth Rogen. So, after 2010’s “Cop Out” Kevin Smith ventured outside the world of comedy and into the religious horror thriller.
“Red State” is about a group of teens that answer an online sex add only to find themselves victim to a group of violent fundamentalist christians. It’s going to be difficult to describe the plot for this film for there is no real “star” of the movie. There’s no straight man to anchor onto for a perspective. That’s not a sign of a bad movie, it just makes the film hard to efficiently describe in a 600 word review. Anyway, Travis, Billy-Ray, and Randy show up to a trailer suspecting sex, but instead black out from drugged beer. When they awake, they are tied and caged during the church sermon of Reverend Abin Cooper. The church goers execute a man for being homosexual and then move on to the three teenagers. The boys attempt to escape which ensues chaos and that chaos catches the eye of the police. The scenario escalates to the point of a hostage situation and a shoot out takes place.
“Red State” is unlike anything Kevin Smith has done before and for reviewing sake it’s unfair to this movie to keep referencing Kevin Smith. It’s just hard not to, because I’m so used to seeing Jay talk about vaginas in his movies. This is gritty, abrupt, and disturbing. Characters die off with little warning and the line of morality is bent and broke on both sides of the law. All in all, this film succeeds in what it was going for. I never found myself begrudgingly accepting a scene due to its small budget or Kevin Smith’s lack of experience in the genre.
As far as performances go, every actor shines. Michael Angarano (Travis), Nicholas Braun (Billy-Ray), and Ronnie Connell (Randy) play horrified bystanders to a methodical and ego driven Michael Parks (Abin Cooper). To combat the malevolent church group Kevin Smith gets the aid of an ATF agent played by John Goodman. Once John Goodman enters the scene, he steals the show. “Red State” displays some of the best performances Kevin Smith has directed.
An issue that stopped me from becoming totally engrossed was that swaying of atmosphere. There are hints of comedy, hints of horror, and hints of action, but it never really strives for any or all. Multi-genre films can work and have, but it has to embrace them to create a steady atmosphere. Swaying in and out of genres is not an easy thing to grasp when a leading character is hard to come by.
The camera movement is sporadic and the picture is desaturated and grainy. This works fairly well considering the subject material. Other than Reverend Cooper’s sermon, the film flows fairly well. You watch an entire sermon that will test your patients, and I don’t know if I’m just getting old, but I could only understand about every other word because of the accent.
All in all “Red State” is an okay film, but doesn’t have a solid enough foundation for me to consider it great. There are flashes of brilliance, but they’re sparse. It will make you wonder however. If Fred Phelps told his followers at the Westboro baptists church to start killing in the name of God, would they?
I’m still not sure why God hates fags.
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