Red State (Review)

Not really, it was always likely that this would suck…

Count me in as a prior fanboy gone askew. I mean awry. I mean away…

Cop Out was the last straw… at the time. Like the X-Files used to say I want to believe, but a decade of crapulence punctuated only by the momentary goodwill (garnered by existing characters Dante and Randall) and one good LotR joke – is enough to make even the die hardest question their faith…

And speaking of faith, that is the well that Mr Smith has gone back to this time with Red State. But this is no Dogma retrofitting to suit his own doubts and ponderations, Red State is a look at the extremists and the lengths they will go to in the name of faith.

It was Smith himself who actually sucked me in by describing this film as a ‘Nasty-Ass horror flick with few redeeming characters’. Now if you read more than a couple reviews on this site you might guess I am no stranger to nasty-ass horror flicks. So I saddled up one last time and thought I’d give Red State the once over.

My first impression is that Red State is a ‘nasty-ass horror flick’ surprisingly bereft of horror. In fact there is less than 10 minutes of anything befitting the genre in the film. The remaining 80 odd minutes is a mediocre made for TV movie – I was going to say TV show but apparently they are way better nowadays. (I should really watch TV sometime.)

Red State is disturbingly one note and uncreative. It is built around the premise that religious extremists are bad and all, but what if they actually went to greater lengths to follow up their rants and ravings?

In this case the family attract victims sinners on the internet with the promise of anonymous sex, who upon arriving are drugged and taken away for absolution – or punishment – whichever it is it comes with a liberal spray of blood.

Michael Parks plays the leader of the cult with intensity and fervour, he holds a revered position that must come with the power to brainwash, and everyone within the cult calls him Daddy or Grandpa (maybe because he is in fact everyone’s Daddy or Grandpa, we are never explicitly told). Melissa Leo is one of his more passionate underlings, and the embodiment of family first. There’s not much more to say about the family members, they are essentially faceless followers.

And this is where the trouble for me lies;

I have seen documentaries about the Phelps family upon which the extremists here are based, and let me just say that the real family is way more scary and threatening than the one imagined here. They are happily and gleefully insane, they freely acknowledge that the known world and everyone in it disagrees and simply do not care. They brainwash the kids from nappies to adulthood with lies and a twisting of the facts, and are happy to hold measured and reasoned conversations with one and all without resorting to profanity, never straying from their nutso beliefs.

If you don’t believe, you are going to Hell. If anyone in the Family strays or leaves of their own volition, they are going to Hell. This leads parents to cast out children, and a generation of youths with precious little hope of ever acclimatising with people their own age.

Adding weapons and violence to such people removes their real threat, weapons can be removed, aggressors can be killed, beliefs cannot be taken by force… irrational hatred is hard to subdue.

Back to the film: When a soon to be saved teen momentarily eludes captivity and alerts the authorities, the family finds the attention of the authorities – lead by Agent Joseph Keenan (John Goodman) and his armed tactical response group. The family decides that it doesn’t like the attention none too much…

And with that decision, Kevin Smith runs out of ideas, the remainder of the film lacks humour, suspense, hooks, stunts of worthwhile action of any kind, let alone the much discussed ‘horror’ elements. The film is so lacking that while it is advertised as 95 minutes it actually runs closer to 80, and a lengthy scene near the end of the film was undoubtedly there to pad time. The actual ‘action’ – such as it is – is over just after the hour.

The performances are OK. Melissa Leo is a scary bitch… in the movie. John Goodman does a good job in a role that only requires he exert himself a few times and Michael Parks is a good bad guy languishing within the constraints of a dodgy threadbare plot.

There’s not much left to say really. Kevin Smith has enjoyed nearly two decades as an indie darling come good, basking in his own success and the constant twitter / net attention of his loyal followers, none of whom think to tell him he hasn’t made a decent film this century (which I might add is in its second decade).

He has announced that he will be making his swansong film about ice hockey and splitting it into two parts. This matters not to me anymore. I will not be watching his chilly opus, nor will I endure anything he makes subsequently when his desire to be adored causes him to break his retirement plans.

Kevin Smith is no longer the daggy fat wunderkind with a gift for dialogue and a bottomless pool of creativity. He is the guy that made Clerks, and to a lesser extent Dogma and Chasing Amy. The rest of his oeuvre is irrelevant at best, lamentable at worst.

Red State is lamentable.

Final Rating – 5.5 / 10. This ‘nasty-ass’ horror film is actually those two things separately; ‘nasty’, and ‘ass’.

While I’m loving the fact that the Aussie dollar is so strong meaning I can buy DVDs for next to nothing. I really must pick my flicks better…

About OGR

While I try to throw a joke or two into proceedings when I can all of the opinions presented in my reviews are genuine. I don't expect that all will agree with my thoughts at all times nor would it be any fun if you did, so don't be shy in telling me where you think I went wrong... and hopefully if you think I got it right for once. Don't be shy, half the fun is in the conversation after the movie.
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