Red State (2011) [REVIEW]

 

Remember how a few reviews back I had mentioned Attack the Block and how I had a limited time frame when it came to watching it? Yeah, well, same goes for this movie. I had heard mixed reviews about Kevin Smith and his foray into a genre that was quite different from what gained him notoriety. I don’t want to say he delved into the “horror” genre, because when I first heard about this movie and the genre he claimed it fell under, he seemed to avoid lumping it into the “horror” category. I’m not sure if this was to avoid people setting expectations at what the film would be early on, or maybe it was because he was nervous for claiming he made a horror movie, but either way, his publicity for this film seemed to change. This means the way I perceived the film changed as well, now that he had been calling it a “nasty-ass $4mil horror flick”. I have been putting this off and putting this off, but when I had seen his reactions on Twitter over the lack of nominations it had received with the Independent Spirit Awards, I wanted to see for myself if this tantrum was warranted or not. SO HERE WE FUCKING GO.

 

Wait a second, you’re trying to tell me that Kevin Smith put his wife in a movie? YA DON’T SAY!

As Travis (played by Michael Angarano, better known as the little kid from Almost Famous) is driven to school by his mom (played by Anna Gunn, better known as Skylar from Breaking Bad), they pass by a funeral being protested by members of an extreme religious sect known as the “Five Points Church“, which is led by Abin Cooper (played by Michael Parks, better known as that guy Quentin Tarantino loves to put in movies). When Travis meets up with his friends, Jarod (played by Kyle Gallner, better known as the kind of creepy kid from a shitload of movies but I remember from Veronica Mars) lets them know there is a woman he met online who promised to do all of them. Thinking this sounded like a great idea, the friends go to meet Sara (played by Melissa Leo, better known as the crazy mom in The Fighter), who end up drugging them and taking them hostage. When they come to, they realize they have been taken captive by Abin and the Five Points Church, and see someone attached to a cross get executed. Unfortunately for the church, these shenanigans don’t go on for too long before being discovered by the local police department, at which time the ATF is called in to take care of the situation.

 

A church based on high-fives? I’M IN. WHERE DO I SIGN UP AND WHO DO I MURDER?

The main ATF agent in charge of the raid is Keenan (played by John Goodman, better known as King Ralph) whose orders are to raid the complex and kill every witness. Having difficulties carrying out these orders, there’s a standoff between the agents and the church, that leaves deaths on both sides. Uncertain of which side will win, both sides are surprised at the sound of loud trumpet blasts, which the Five Points Church seems to interpret as God coming to kill all the bad guys. Having no fear of their salvation, they drop their guns and walk out of the complex to confront the ATF agents, and we then cut to see Keenan being interrogated by his superiors. Apparently the sound that everyone was hearing was created by neighbors of the church who were playing a prank on the church, completely oblivious to the standoff. Rather than all the members of the church being killed, the important members are thrown in jail, where it is implied that their butts will be fucked repeatedly, which is probably something they won’t enjoy.

 

If you fuck up his cocoon, how do you expect him to turn into a butterfly?

After watching the movie, I completely understand why Kevin Smith was hesitant at first when calling it a horror movie. This film all too closely holds a mirror up to the state of this country and its religious fanatics that to call it a “horror movie” implies that everything in it is a work of fiction. Whether a horror movie is based on “true events” or claims to be “found footage”, we know it’s all fake and dramatized just to make us jump or get creeped out. Instead, it seems as though Red State is a far more subtle and subdued type of fear, because of how true to life it is. To anyone familiar with the terrible things that the Westboro Baptist Church has done and is capable of, tone it down just a tiny bit, and that’s how the Five Points Church is portrayed. Never once do they act crazy or maniacal, because they are constantly portrayed as calm, rational people who actually think what they’re doing is right. I’m sure that a more appropriate genre could even be “drama”, but I can see how that would cause some controversies as well. And maybe it’s just because I watched the Bill Hicks documentary recently, but there also seemed to be quite a few similarities between Red State and the situation that happened in Waco, TX in the early 90’s. A guy was in a complex with a bunch of other people, doing things that the government didn’t want them to do, so the government just killed everyone.

 

This isn’t actually from Red State. This was the face John Goodman made when someone called him up to tell him what happened in the series finale of Roseanne.

Smith is known for his witty, clever, and oftentimes filthy dialogue, and don’t worry, you get plenty of that in this movie as well. Not to say at all that this movie is a comedy, but all of the humor in it is quite smart. I guess that’s kind of a strange thing about all of Smith’s movies, in that no matter how “dumb” a character is supposed to be, they still have some smart humor to them, almost making it seem like the Kevin Smith universe is something that’s…askew. Yes, you might say that there is something askew about his view…get it? Because his company is called View Askew? Oh man, that was great. Anyways, his dialogue is what made him famous, and it was nice to see his visual experiments with this film, being new to the genre and not really needing to adhere to his comedic style. For example, one shot/concept I was really impressed with was that one character was attached to a cross through the use of plastic wrap, and his head was ultimately covered as well. Once it was wrapped, a different character shot him in the head, and the plastic wrap caught all of the blood. To see the faceless head of this character slowly fill with blood was pretty cool, and was a relatively simple idea that didn’t rely on gore or special effects to be creepy.

 

I’d let this man do my taxes, Rapture or no Rapture.

So was Kevin Smith justified for going on Twitter and calling the Film Independent an “idiotic organization” for not nominating Melissa Leo, John Goodman, or Michael Parks? No, I can’t say that they deserve those nominations. This isn’t because I’m biased as to who was nominated, because I don’t even fucking know who else was nominated. Don’t get me wrong, Melissa Leo, John Goodman, and Michael Parks were all quite good in this film, in particular was Parks as the terrifying preacher. I think the reason I don’t think they necessarily deserve to be nominated is because their performances were too grounded in reality and were all too human, making it hard to stand out. Does that even make sense what I just said? I guess what I mean is that it didn’t seem that either of the three needed to work too hard to successfully portray their characters. Firstly, Melissa Leo didn’t really have enough screen time, in my opinion, to warrant a nomination. John Goodman played a government agent who didn’t want to kill an entire house full of people just because he was ordered to. I have a feeling that I would react the same exact way as his character would, so it seemed as though John Goodman was just playing himself and how any other human would react, but while wearing an ATF costume. And again, Michael Parks was good, but not mind-blowing, but this goes back to the idea that this film was all too real to be considered much of a stretch for any of the actors, and that these were watered-down performances of what the real members of the Westboro Baptist Church are capable of actually living. I didn’t want to give this movie too good of a review because my immediate feelings were underwhelming and combined with the upset comments that Smith made on Twitter, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized I was being a baby. This movie might not give you nightmares, it might not make you fear a boogeyman, but this movie is hopefully a wake-up call to people who put too much faith in anything. Whether it be whatever God you worship, your government, or the girl who offers to fuck you and your friends after talking to her on the internet. If you think this movie is creepy, just keep in mind that this is a toned down version of the world we live in, we’re all fucked, are going to die, the government is lying to us, and there is no God. Sorry!

 

Wolfman Moon Scale


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