Monday, September 19, 2011

Red State (2011)

Fear 3/5
Gore 3/5
Entertainment 3/5
Creepiness 5/5

Kevin Smith's first foray into horror films deals with an insane and over-the-top religious cult. Which is kind of ironic in and of itself because that's how most of his fans are: nuts and cult-like. The acting is top notch and it paints a pretty horrific picture (not in an overly gory way but more because of the extreme characterizations). It's a worthwhile watch that is captivating from start to finish. And it has a practical message that you aren't force fed or beaten over the head with.

Our film begins with a trio of teenage boys using the interwebs to browse profiles, rate, and (hopefully) coax some fine sophisticated woman into having sex with the three of them. In this day and age of readily available porn and unmonitored kids this idea, while initially seeming silly, actually made sense given my feelings on kids today (I'm becoming an old crotchety bastard) and their insatiable needs of instant gratification. A woman of particular interest responds back to them via email and they set up a rendezvous for later that night.

After commandeering a family ride, they drive out to Nowheresville and quickly learn that they aren't going to get to bang bedposts. Instead, they're knocked out, bound and hauled off to a local preacher's church. When one of them comes to, we see him being wheeled out in a cage with a blanket draped over it, his screams drowned out by a congregation's singing.

What happens next is a preacher's sermon which sets up his group's belief structure and his own whacked out ideologies. It's not too far off from your Westboro Baptist Churches of the world (in fact, they're even referenced in the film). But there is one cruel distinction: they actually take matters into their own hands not only passing judgment but executing the threat to their way of life and ideological existence. Michael Parks (Maidenhead, Kill Bill Vol. II) makes the film what is as a pastor who's one vicious bastard. He's also not afraid to use and equip his followers with an arsenal he has stashed inside the church and compound.

And that's exactly what happens as the boys try to escape and the FBI stops by for a visit. Lead by Joseph Keenan (John Goodman), a tough yet affable man, the group is given unbelievable orders as they are instructed to kill everyone inside. After a fit of conscience, a brutal standoff comprises the vast majority of the rest of the film. Our story concludes with Keenan being interviewed by his superiors as to the 'whys' behind this group and their extreme belief system.

Here is where Smith shows a surprising amount of restraint: instead of going off on some wild rant about organized religion, how it's brainwashed the whole of humanity or how its been responsible for more bad deeds than good, we learn that what actually drew the group out of the compound and into the hands of the FBI was not a perceived act of divine intervention. But rather it was a perfectly explainable, of this world, type of occurrence. I think you can draw your own inferences here about what he's trying to say.

Not a film classic for sure but certainly not worthy of some of the negative pub its received, Red State may pleasantly surprise you. For a filmmaker that's prone to over the top-ness and copious amounts of dick and fart jokes, I found this interesting and unexpected.

Cortez the Killer


MarkusWelby1 said...

I really want this to be good. Haven't been a Smith fan since Mallrats and nothing scares me more than creepy rednecks.

Pax Romano said...

I really enjoyed this film, I thought it was one of the better releases this year. Who knew that Smith had something this compelling in him?

That said, what's up with that DVD box cover? A girl in shorts shorts carrying a gun - way to mislead.

The Man-Cave said...

Sounds good to me and I can't wait to finally see it. I wasn't aware of any negative publicity but Smith haters are everywhere. Hey, if Parks is in it, you know it's a good time. Nice write-up, dude!

Planet of Terror said...

@Markus, I was really surprised by this. Definitely solid.

@Pax, agreed. I thought it was going to be over the top and heavy handed in the delivery of its message. Even though the characterizations were extreme, they really weren't too far off (which really made the film the terrifying experience that it was).

@Man-cave, Parks was phenomenal. There simply is no film or story without him. So cold and manipulative.

Planet of Terror said...

Oh and Pax, agreed on the box cover. totally WTF?

J. Astro said...

Pumped for this. Any kind of horror/thriller with John Goodman in it instantly skyrockets to the top of my priority list. :D

the jaded viewer said...

Dammit CTK, your forcing me to see this sooner than later.

I was kinda psyched about Red State but then the reviews were all not kind.

But if you say its worthy...might as well put it on the top of my q.

Planet of Terror said...

Jaded, can't wait to hear your thoughts. I think you'll find it enjoyable.

The Film Connoisseur said...

I'm sure the amount of bad press this film has gotten has to do with its message. Films that say religion is evil tend to get 'boycotted'. Just look at what happened with The Golden Compass.

Im dying to check this one out, it sounds like my cup of tea!

Planet of Terror said...

TFC, I think that has a bit to do with it. I also think that folks have pigeonholed Smith. Not too mention that he's very outspoken about the film industry itself.

Definitely check it out. I think you'd enjoy it.