As much as we love the comedic stylings of Kevin Smith, we honestly went into Red State not expecting too much. He's funny, that's his thing, and as much of a genre geek as he may be, horror can be a tough nut to crack, even for genre masters. So with no expectation, but full of hope, we showed up to support they guy and pray for the best.
and... mixed bag.
Red State is basically the fictionalized story of the Westboro Baptist Church and its leader, the gem of humanity, Fred Phelps. These are the fucktards that protest military funerals, waving around signs that say "Thank God for Dead Soldiers" or "Fag Sin = 9-11," They hate Jews and Blacks too, because they're the devil apparently. So basically, they're inbred nut-jobs, who are really lucky they haven't caught a stray bullet yet. Then again they have god on their side, so maybe we ought to listen to what they're... nah.... let's stick with stray bullets.
That's what Red State is about. A crazy, creepy old pastor and his even creepier, glassy eyed cult of a family, get a hold of a few dumb kids who were going to gang bang a hooker and kill them, prompting the police to call in the Swat Team and have themselves a Waco-like standoff. Down south that's called a "hootenanny". I love that fucking word. Hootenanny. It makes me smile.
Red State isn't really a horror movie, so much as it's a horrific portrayal of the state of hate in America. It's also a little jab at Republican rednecks, hence the title. It's interesting enough, has some bloody bits and definitely has a creepy vibe to it, but it's also full of quirky dark humor, which sometimes feels like Kevin Smith is at the helm, albeit a depressed and bitter Kevin Smith.
There's a lot of message and political comment in at work here too. I guess I was expecting more bloody fun than preachy sentiment, because I hate being preached to. Not to say that I agree or disagree with the movie's point and message, but come on Kevin Smith, I count on you to bring the fun, not make me think. And in the realm of horror, I expected you to go over the top, as you so often do in your funnier flicks.
There were moments of brilliance sprinkled throughout the movie, but amidst those were moments of confusion, indecisiveness and plain old un-eventfulness. It's as if Kevin Smith had a few good ideas about what he wanted to do here, and where he wanted it all to go, but just kind of mixed them altogether and called it a day instead of taking one idea and running with it. So some greatness, some blandness, both in fairly equal parts, and not enough of either to call the movie one way or the other.
The best part of the whole affair was John Goodman. Playing it funny or straight, he's got this loveable quality about him that is always great to behold. Here he plays it straight, and steals the show. We'd be remiss not to mention the greatness of Michael Parks while were here too; he plays intense very well, and he is great as the shepherd of the movies creepy flock. They're both good enough reason to check this movie out.
The ending shit the bed a little bit too, offering us something that could have been truly bold and interesting, but instead switching gears, dismissing it, and just kind of ending on a bland note. I won't spoil what I'm talking about, but suffice it to say that for a minute I was like "What in the hell.... wow!" Then I was like "Oh... that sucks." A truly missed opportunity that could have strengthened everything that came before it. It felt like a cop out, especially for a movie that tackled such a fundamentally deep and touchy subject as religion. Having seen Dogma (another Smith film for those who don't know), I can see why he went the way he did, because to do otherwise might challenge his own belief system... but as far as movie moments go, despite belief or lack thereof, it could have been a truly great moment.
The Master Says- C I have to imagine that Red State will polarize audiences; some will love it for its message and raw delivery, while others will hate it for exactly the same reasons. Honestly, we here at THC feel both ways about it. We loved some of it, and hated the rest, and in pretty equal amounts. If Kevin Smith had pushed the envelope and focuses the story a bit more, we would most likely love it all the way. It's nothing that we'd watch again (unless we get a John Goodman jones, because he was awesome in this), but we're glad we saw it. As for you, if the bashing of politics and religion set you off on a tangent, you may want to sit this one out.
Final Thoughts- Hootenanny!