"People just do the strangest things when they believe they're entitled. But they do even stranger things when they just plain believe." - Joseph Keenan
Middle America and three horny teens are looking for some excitement of the sexual kind from internet advertisements. They discover one lady who is looking for some in the next town over and decide a road trip would be just what their carnal desires ordered. Naturally they borrow the family car and head on out, getting into a little side swipe on the way, which unfortunately proves to involve the local sheriff's car. They reach their destination, a trailer in a remote location and meet their paramour for the evening, who looks to have been around the block a few times. Naturally she wants each of them to get a couple of beers inside themselves before they can get inside her. Before you can say "roofies" our three horny dudes discover they have been drugged and pass out, in an ironic twist on the date rape thing.
They wake up and find they have fallen prey to the local Christian Fundamentalists, who despise homosexuals, youths after casual sex, and about anyone who is not a member of their inward looking fate. Seems Pastor Cooper and his flock delight in executing anyone they can get their hands on, including wayward teens. Complicating things a Deputy arrives and notices the boys' car in the church parking lot with a notable dent in it. One thing follows another and eventually the local Feds are called up and it's all-out war between the Cult, who have a heavy amount of combat rifles, and the forces of law and order.
I'm not the biggest fan of director Kevin Smith, I find his movies overrated and generally only supported by the tragically hip or those who like to belief they know more about movie making than your average little black duck, the sort of person who posts on the RT forums. But given this is the first venture into the dark genre by Smith I decided to risk it, couldn't be worse than something by Eli Roth right? When the end credits rolled I had mixed emotions, the movie was better than I expected it to be, but really belaboured its sub texts and wasn't as engrossing as it seems to think it is.
The movie revolves around sex, religion, and politics; you know the stuff that you don't discuss at dinner parties. Clearly Smith has issues with at least two of these topics and is going to belabour his issues during the course of the movie, while the rest of us simply want to get down with the plot and let the action take us for a ride. The surprising thing, and something the Director nails, is there are no heroes in this movie; no one is exactly covering themselves with viewer sympathy. It goes without saying our horny teens have not much in terms of redeeming features, deserve what they get? - you decide. Religious fundamentalists by their nature, and most definitely in dark genre outings, are deeply flawed and not exactly viewing the world through perfect 20-20 vision. And finally the Feds are going over the top with orders not to allow anyone out alive, due to the whole shooting match being started by local law enforcement. About the only character in the whole movie you can feel some sympathy for is Dana, a young cultist, who knows exactly what the Feds have planned, devises an exit strategy, and is more concerned with the young kids in the compound than herself. Not bad Mr Smith, sort of a nihilistic world view point here.
In essence the movie plays out in a couple of chapters with differing viewpoints. Initially we have our horny teens running afoul of religious fundamentalists, and this wasn't going to end well for them was my immediate thought. So we have a bunch of scenes set in the chapel fully minted lunatic Pastor Copper conducts his whacky doodle sermons in. I was wondering if we weren't going to spend some time in Hostel as Copper basically goes psychological terror on a random gay dude the cult have managed to lure into their clutches. And I just have to say it people, "wrapped in plastic", call out to Twin Peaks 1990 original y'all. Anyways we get plenty of crazy and a segue into the second chapter via a Deputy being gunned down. The second chapter is like something you would expect from a Tarantino flick, we're talking full on gunfight with heavy casualties on both sides. Things are getting pretty murky during the second half of Red State as Smith unleashes his full paranoia over Government agencies.
Got to say the ending to the movie is going to rock some people's boat and completely capsize others. I was vaguely amused as Smith went dark humour with the compost collective across the hill hitting the revenge track via a Biblical reference. I was also wondering if the Writer/Director wasn't making some sort of comment on tragic hipsters with the reference to the iPod, hey remember those things? Anyways the irony is pretty solid with the final couple of scenes, which raised Red State in my sordid opinion from being an overtly didactic mess to something worth the wait to catch. Have watched the movie a few times now just to ensure I wasn't misreading what Kevin Smith had going down here. And by the way Smith tragic hipsters are your target audience Bro.
In terms of aesthetics Smith has his locations and sets rocking the house down. Guess we are meant to believe the cult compound is in farming land, not that they reference anyone actually growing anything, but I got this whole desolation boulevard feeling going down. The cult has ripped down "all the barns on the property", except for the one that takes central stage at one stage, to build this redneck wall around their land. The wall is so badly built I was grooving on this idea of the property slowly becoming to resemble the mindset of Paster Copper, and then wondered what I was doing, Reviewer not Critic over here. The house/chapel was well maintained but the rest of the place is starting to resemble a dust bowl, talk about really nailing the inward looking insane natural of the situation we find ourselves in. Rob Zombie could learn a ton about making movies by watching Kevin Smith going ballistic in this one.
Acting is fair to middling with Michael Parks nailing it as the Pastor off his castors, just some of his mannerisms and fundamental belief in his world view had me convinced. Kerry Bishé equalled nails it as the young cultist chick who realises everything is out of control and descending into chaos. After these two I wasn't so sure I would be seeing anyone else in anything else, but hey you never know, certainly a lot of horror flicks released over the last few years. On the bright side of the Old Testament, the cultists looked like they really could be cultists, excellent casting right there.
Having not been a Kevin Smith fan or indeed liking any of his previous movies I can't say if he is a regular commentator on society but clearly with Red State the Writer/Director is having a broad swipe at the lunatic fundamental Christian fringe exemplified by the Westboro Baptist Church. We first get introduced to Pastor Cooper and his team of inbreeds as they are protesting at a funeral of a college student, apparent the religiously retarded are convinced the dead kid was gay and hence is going to hell. If you have been keeping up with current affairs then you are right across the Westboro ability to infringe on other people's sad times. Smith is clearly rocking this idea and pointing out the loony tunes nature of the religiously intolerant arseholes out there, cool stuff Bro.
For mine Kevin Smith pulled a decent first up dark genre outing making a statement and all, but it definitely isn't a movie I would say is going to move the horror genre in a new direction. As entertainment it works, I was definitely enjoying myself throughout, so would definitely recommend the movie on this aspect. Even though we get the gunfight at the O.K. Corral violence isn't exactly on the high side, so movie okay with kids, equally there isn't any T&A happening so no issues there. If after a movie that has a few barbs then rock this one out tonight folks.