Kevin Smith’s Red State is penned as a horror but don’t let that fool you, this is not your average run of the mill hack and slash movie. It actually plays closer to a gritty thriller horror akin to Rob Zombie’s ‘The Devils Rejects’. Add Smith’s creative dialog and you’re onto a movie which barrages and unsettles you, splattered with touches of his usual comedy.
It starts typically with three teenage boys trawling the internet for the prospect of sex. Once they arrive at their destination things quickly take a turn (as it usually does) for the worse. The boys are played by Michael Angarano, Nicholas Braun and Kyle Gallner who do a brilliant job of portraying three characters which could have fallen into the pitfall of being a bit two dimensional.
Once in the realm of the Five Points Trinity Church, we are introduced to its pastor Abin Cooper (Michael Parks) and his congregation, who believe in a rather extreme form of Christianity where the world has already gone to hell and they are condemning anyone who doesn’t follow their ideals.
This scene contains a quite lengthy monologue by Abin. At first I thought it dragged, but on reflection I realize that my discomfort was caused by the increasing tension as Cooper spouts his religious righteousness and a shrouded figure on a cross squirms in the background. You know something wicked this way comes...
Parks is a powerhouse, his every word is absolutely captivating and he completely embodies the Cooper’s fierce eyed Grandpa whose every word is spoken with love but also filled with hate and bile. One aspect that really stood out and I felt contributed to layers of tension is the movie's lack of score, instead scenes are complimented by Michael Parks' glorious singing.
As the movie progresses the situation at the Five Points Trinity Church escalates and the local sheriff involves ATF (the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives) and its leading agent Joseph Keenan (the ever wonderful John Goodman).
The second half of the movie is a siege situation between the ATF and the Cooper clan. The gun battle which ensues contains the amount of arsenal which would normally feel at home in your average 80’s action flick. This is quite impressive considering Smith’s effects budget for the movie was only $5000. There are underlying threads of politics and following authority, without thinking. Whether that be your commander, parents or your apparent deity.
Kevin Smith’s concept for the Cooper family came from the Westboro Baptist Church and its pastor Fred Phelps. But as Agent Keenan mentions, the Phelps family are suers not doers, a very clever line to distance the created characters from their inspiration.
Red State is full of performances which stay with you, (too many to mention here) but kudos to Melissa Leo who plays Abin’s daughter, Sara who is just as twisted and terrifying as her father.
Smith dubbed this movie a horror due to its events being horrifying. In that sense I can agree, isn’t that why we call them horror movies? This film manages to cross the boundaries of horror, satire and action. All the while providing a very thought provoking story.
Fear God... and cling film!
Stefan Harkins would never trawl the internet. No sir.