Friday, October 21, 2011

Red State: Movie Review


This is the stuff that nightmares are made of.

“Red State” is a horror the way “Jesus Camp” (the 2006 documentary) is a horror; not in the way Hollywood makes horror movies. It’s actually scary. It’s scary because these people exist and events like the fictional ones portrayed here have occurred and there’s no reason they won’t occur again. I’m assuming Kevin Smith had nightmares for years and to try and right his world, he had to tell this story. 2011

Directed by: Kevin Smith

Screenplay by: Kevin Smith

Starring: Michael Parks and John Goodman

It starts with teenage boys being teenage boys, and the extreme religious right being the deranged maniacs that they are. The three high school boys (in star-making performances by Michael Angarano, Kyle Gallner and Nicholas Braun) are just trying to get laid. Meanwhile, lunatic preacher Abin Cooper (Michael Parks) is just trying to exterminate all homosexuals or anybody who may have homosexual tendencies.

As you can guess, their paths cross and things don’t go well for the boys (I would call them our heroes, but I’ll get to that later). When a local law enforcer finds his own reasons to hunt down Abin Cooper, things get significantly worse for everybody. I’ll give you a hint as to how things could get really bad: Cooper and his followers don’t just have murderous rage against gays, they are also gun nuts.

The interesting things here are not so much what is shown on screen but the implications of what Smith is trying to say by what he has shown on the screen, which to be clear, is a lot of screaming and a lot of gun shots. One of the more intriguing ideas that Smith is saying, is that there is no such thing as heroes. John Goodman as the Federal agent is the closest thing we get to a hero but even he makes decisions that are brought on by his own personal feelings and not getting all the facts.

As the saying goes: Shoot first, think later. That applies to pretty much everybody we meet. The film continues with a few somewhat positive resolutions, bringing this story into the present world we live in. But the damage has been done, and the lessons can be hard to learn.

“Red State” premiered at Sundance in January of this year to a lot of (negative) buzz mostly due to the so-called stunt that Smith pulled by pretending to auction off the distribution rights but then buying it himself. I wasn’t there, but I’m on his side. This story has to be told and he has a better chance himself of getting this film seen than going through some distribution company that is scared of the religious right.

There was an episode of The Daily Show in the fall of 2008 when the fear of Sarah Palin becoming vice president was a very real fear, and Jon Stewart was almost brought to tears out of the fear he had. I had the same fear and felt what he was feeling. Now after watching this, I know that Kevin Smith had the same kind of fear. Perhaps a bit more centered on the religious right than the political right.

There are some haunting shots in this film that will stay with you. In particular, one of Michael Angarano crouching with a machine gun and shaking as he cried. “Red State” can be quite affecting because the fear is real.

Best of 2011