Red State – Horror Movie Review
Kevin Smith has always been an interesting filmmaker to keep your eye on. His films haven't always been fantastic yet they've always had a sort of charisma that I, as well as many others, have enjoyed. Red State is Smith's next outing and he's strayed far away from his common ground. The film follows three teenagers who find themselves as hostages by a family of Christian extremists after being lured in by an invitation for sex. Prepare yourself for a brutal and sadistic yet fucking awesome film.
This film is new territory for Kevin Smith and he's not gone about making this it in the conventional way. He's done this off of his own back, building up buzz online, dedicating one of his podcasts to its development, setting up a sort of Red State Film School (named the Red State of the Union), refusing to do press work and organising a post-premier auction for the film at Sundance with which he then bought the movie himself for $20 to later distribute it on Video on Demand services in America. It's been an interesting project to follow. Smith has taken independent filmmaking to the next level with this outing.
The film kicks off right away and we're introduced to the three unfortunate teenagers who are invited to an evening of the 'Devil's business.' None of the characters in the film are really developed, Smith's too busy throwing you straight into the story but each of them is unique and has something important to say and a role to play which in turn gives each of the characters something whole to latch onto. We're soon taken to Cooper's Dell, the home of Pasture Abin Cooper (played incredibly by Michael Parks) and his fundamentalist family. The pace slows a little here as we observe Pasture Cooper deliver a sermon to his cult, but this is the time to enjoy Smith's writing as well as Parks' delivery. His words of hate are potent and compelling to hear; together Smith and Parks make you squirm in your seat with upsetting dialogue that also builds up the tension and suspense of the foreboding horror as a white sheet hides the twitches of a man tied to a crucifix behind Parks as he preaches. Smith crafts the scene well by including shots of the followers listening intently, cutting to the kids innocently swinging their legs and one member quietly knitting in the corner. All these add to the callousness of the scene. It really kicks off when Abin asks for the children to leave as things are gonna get grown up in here. The white sheet is removed to reveal a man wrapped in Clingfilm and the horror that's been building rises to the surface with full brute force.
The film then steps up several gears, things begin to go wrong for the Cooper's as the teenagers cut loose and John Goodman is brought in to sort things out. Goodman plays Joseph Keenan an agent sent in to bring the Cooper family down; he too brings a great performance to the film delivering some of Smith's darkly comic moments that do bring light to the dark elements in the story. Fortunately the choice to bring in witty moments are chosen well and doesn't affect greatly on the final product. An all out guns blazing brawl begins and Smith, new to shooting action sequences limits himself to an array of mid-shots of the characters during the shoot out scenes however with good choices in editing he pulls it all together. I did wish for him to explore, however, other angles to deliver a more visually interesting sequence.
Red State starts off by ticking the boxes of a conventional horror movie; it eventually matures into something more than just horror. It's disquieting and unsettling but with Smiths main ability in writing appealing dialogue the film closes through a brilliant monologue by Goodman's character Keenan, commenting in a humorous satirical way on America. With all the 'horror' that's revealed in the media about the conflicts elsewhere, Smith has surfaced with a horror movie that deals with politics and far right-wing opinions in the heart of a post 9/11 America.
Kevin Smith has gone back to his roots in independent filmmaking and pushed the boundaries far, far out. Red State is later to be considered for awards at the Oscars, so despite it's less than conventional distribution methods I advise a watch of Red State, Kevin Smith fan or not.
Released on the 30th of September.