Red State (2011) directed by Kevin Smith
For me, the announcement that Kevin Smith was directing a horror movie was great news. I have been a big fan and admirer of the director since seeing Clerks at Burns Court Cinema in 1994. While his movies have never been perfect, he has always made it clear that he was doing things his own way and making his own path. He has made his feelings about religion clear before with “Dogma”, and uses film-making as his own personal diary to express and work out his own views of the world, which is the core of all art, unless I am sadly mistaken. In fact, “Red State” was inspired in part by an odd premonition of Smith’s that he was going to die after his tenth film and wanted to leave an unpleasant, nasty film as his last.
The controversies surrounding the very release of this film are interesting in themselves. The Weinstein Company, who had been involved in the distribution of most Kevin Smith films, passed on supporting Red State with necessary funding. He found the $4 million somewhere, and shot the movie quickly, then decided on an unorthodox self-distribution scheme, which angered quite a few Hollywood types who felt they were somehow swindled. For months, Smith had maintained that the rights to the film would be auctioned off to a distributor at a controversial event to be held after its premiere at Sundance, but instead Smith purchased the film himself which, according to analysts, “might have been a difficult sale for any distributor.” On June 28, 2011, Smith announced a one-week run in Tarantino’s New Beverly Cinema (making the film and its actors eligible for Oscar consideration). The film was released via On Demand on September 1, 2011 through Lionsgate, was released in select theaters again for a special one-night only engagement on September 23, 2011 (via Smodcast Pictures), and was released on home video October 18, 2011.
Is it any good? Well…
The film starts in true old-school slow burn fashion, no title card, no credits. You are simply thrust into a situation, which is a great horror movie trick, that disorients you from the start. The initial characters are a few “average” teenage boys with a plan to meet up and gang-fuck some 38-year-old spinster they met through some dating app.
Of course, unless you have been a teenage boy, you probably can’t relate to this, and Smith probably alienated a lot of his audience here. In my case, I could relate. Not about the gang-sex, but just to the boys driving around aimlessly on a weekend night, drinking and smoking. It felt like something my friends and I would have done at that age, even though we sadly didn’t have the trusty internet back then in 1995.
Anyway, they arrive at a sad old trailer in the backwoods, inhabited by a sad older woman, who encourages the boys to drink up, because she “don’t let no man enter her unless he’s got two beers in him.”
Then, suddenly, the boys are unconscious and nearly-naked, in the cramped bedroom of a single-wide trailer, and some figures come into view as the point of view fades out. When we wake up, we are still looking through the eyes of one of the boys, Jared, as he is rolled along inside of a cage covered with a sheet. The in-your-face shaky cam during this scene really hieghtens the suspense you feel, in this instance.
Then we arrive at the best scene in the movie. A local religious zealot named Abin Cooper reveals himself to be the mastermind of this situation, as the sheet covering Jared’s cage is lifted to show the insides of a church-house, and Cooper giving a true fire and brimstone sermon.
Abin Cooper is played amazingly by Michael Parks, who everyone here should know as the Texas Ranger Earl McGraw from the opening scene of the modern classic “From Dusk Till Dawn”. He also reprised that role in both Grindhouse films, “Planet Terror” and “Death Proof”, not to mention his dual roles in “Kill Bill”. He has always been relegated to supporting roles, that I am aware of, but here he takes center-stage and is riveting as the deranged preacher who is convinced that his god is vengeful and angry, and homosexuality is the cause of all the evils in the world. As he rants on with incredible conviction, more elements of the surroundings are slowly revealed.
A figure is moving under a sheet below the cross behind the preacher.
A trap door below the cross holds the other two boys.
Jared’s plea’s for help fall on deaf, deluded ears.
The man under the sheet is revealed to be a “deviant” homosexual, bound to the cross with plastic-wrap and his mouth stuffed with a red gimp ball-gag. The women and children are asked to leave, so the others can get down to “man’s business.”
The struggling man is suffocated and executed, then pushed into the trap door, where the other two boys are struggling to escape.
They cut their cling-wrap cuffs off with a protruding bone from the corpse.
The movie gets fuzzy from here on out, cops are involved, action, running, screaming, and gunshots. It turns into a kind of stand-off film, blatantly echoing the fuck-up at Waco in 1994.
I was excited to learn that John Goodman was cast in this film, but, unfortunately he is quite unconvincing as this character, the head of the ATF squad called in to handle the “terrorists”. He looks old and grizzled, to be sure, but when he is barking death orders into a walkie-talkie, it is simply laughable.
The film twists and turns and shocks the rest of the way through, and if Smith was really going for “unpleasant” with this film, he was successful. The ending is incredibly cynical, but I found it to be a fitting punch-line to the overall film, maybe to Kevin Smith’s whole career.
After all, the last line, “Shut the fuck up!”, is delivered by Kevin “Silent Bob” Smith himself, and if I am correct, I suspect he might be talking to himself….
Grade : B
Faithfully submitted by Darth Biscuits.