I have always tended to enjoy Kevin Smith’s work. Through his filmmaking, he won me over with Clerks and Dogma, and as a comic fan, Guardian Devil is possibly one of my favorite Daredevil arcs ever written. So when I heard about Red State – Kevin Smith’s 2011 horror film – my interest was piqued.
Red State stars Michael Angarano (Travis), Nicholas Braun (Billy Ray), and Kyle Gallner (Jared) as three young, ignorant, and over-sexualized teenage boys who utilize the internet to score themselves some cougar tail. On the way out to a middle-of-nowhere trailer (classy) to meet a mysterious internet lover – the boys accidentally side swipe a parked cop car belonging to none other than Stephen Root (Sherriff Wynan). Fortunately for the boys, he was too caught up in a sinful indulgence of his own with another man – so they were free to speed off and cater to theirs.
However, lust is considered a deadly sin for a reason. When the boys arrive at their destination, they are drugged, bound, and thrown into the morally skewed world of fundamentalist fury by members of the Five Point Church, a local group of religious zealots who hand deliver ‘God’s justice‘ to sinners and homosexuals in the most brutal and unmerciful means possible. All hell (literally) breaks loose, and not even the Sheriff (due to being black mailed with his aforementioned same-sex affair) could stop the church from achieving their goal of letting no sin go unpunished.
The film is less of a horror and more of a political drama/shock platform used by Smith to preach his discontent with organizations like the Westboro Baptist Church, the Patriot Act, and the US “War on Terror”. Needless to say, Red State is not a comfortable film to watch. Michael Parks portrays Albin Cooper, the charismatic leader of Five Points, who spends much of the film spewing anti-gay rhetoric so callous and long-winded that I found myself squirming and overly tempted to fast forward through most of his scenes.
With the exception of Smith’s striking visual accomplishments, (Red State is by far one of his best yet as far as cinematography goes), none of the film flows smoothly from beginning to end. The story was disorganized and “message(s)” were force-fed. Unfortunately, the actors, including John Goodman in the role of Joseph Keenan as the ATF agent assigned to bringing down the church, were never truly allowed to develop more than a superficial level.
Despite the fact that I have enjoyed his prior work – I can not say I recommend this film to many people. It has received rave reviews from his hardcore fans, but in my opinion, it did not live up to potential. Had it been properly executed instead of such a cinematic convulsion it may have truly become the powerful film it was meant to be, focused and driven rather than simply Smith’s clusterfucked political soapbox.