The Reviews

Review: Red State

I recently got the chance to see a film that has had my attention since it was first announced. I’m a Kevin Smith guy, I love his films, I love the characters, I love the whole in-jokes thing, I love his Star Wars fascination, I love his comics obsession, I love his references, I love his dialogue, I love that he was the man that first showed me Jason Lee, I love the tight-knit group of actors that he uses in all of his films. So, yeah, there’s a lot of Kev love from me. I also happen to be a big lover of the horror genre. My most traumatic experience as a kid was watching Jaws at the age of approximately 4. I never recovered. To this day, I still don’t go in the sea. I also hate flying due to my shark phobia. That’s why they call these things irrational films. Anyways, from as long as I can remember I’ve always been a horror fan. Jaws, Halloween, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday 13th, The Thing, Scream, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, It, An American Werewolf in London, Switchblade Romance, The Devil’s Rejects, The Changeling (no, not the one with Mrs Brad Pitt in it), Trick ‘r’ Treat, Body Bags, Shivers, Creepshow – all favourites of mine. I’ll watch any horror film, the worse the better. The low budget shit that gets shown at 3am on a Tuesday night on Zone Horror? I’ll watch it. The sequel to the film that used to be good 6 sequels ago? I’ll watch it. The totally unnecessary crossover of horror characters? I’ll watch it. The one about a girl who is bullied at camp but then ends up being a transsexual serial killer? I’ll watch it (see Sleepaway Camp). The point is, I’ll watch any horror film going, regardless of quality. I even went to the cinema to watch Boogeyman. Right, so keep up, you’ve got Kevin Smith, director of some of my favourite films (Mallrats!!!!!), user of some of my favourite vulgarities (cunt rag), fanboy galore of all things comics-related, and who is now branching out to the field of horror. It’s a perfect mix for me. The only hitch was that Smith was releasing the film in a totally unique way. He was basically cutting out all studio involvement and releasing the film himself, marketing the film himself, selling the film to himself. From there on out he’s been moving across the USA and touring the film from cinema to cinema, town to town, state to state. I didn’t hold out much hope of the film getting released over on this side of the pond, but there are scheduled showings set up at the moment, some involving Q&A sessions with Smith. Luckily for me, I managed to watch the film over the weekend. I’ve been looking to get tickets for the Red State showing and Q&A session at Odeon, Manchester later on this week, but the tickets have sold out. Either way, I’ve managed to view the film this weekend. Here’s the trailer for anybody that hasn’t heard of the film or has no idea as to what the film is about:

The film initially focuses on a group of three teenage friends, one of which arranges to meet a girl that he has met on the Internet. It turns out that he’s managed to get this hot girl to agree to a foursome involving the three guys. It’s probably best to point out now that the film actually opens by showing a group of people protesting outside of the funeral of a gay US solder. As it happens, after the three friends arrive at the trailer of the aforementioned hot lady it turns out to be a case of false advertising. Instead of the hot, young girl that has been talking to one of the friends, the person they find upon arrival is a middle aged Melissa Leo. The friends decide to go for it anyway, with one thing leading to another and them waking up amongst a cult. The cult are against homosexuality, sex, drugs, alcohol, etc. Generally all the good stuff – bar the homesexuality, although that’s a matter of choice. Rather than tolerate the differences of others, the cult has their own methods of dealing with those that do not see things in the same way that they do, and their methods are extreme. Just as things start to take shape, John Goodman and his team of special agents turn up to help out the local Sheriff. Everything goes a bit bat-shit crazy once Goodman’s boss gives him certain orders over the phone. That’s all I’m going to say about the plot so that I don’t give away too much. That said, “simple just shit itself” is my favourite film quote of recent memory. Genius from the man Smith!
Whilst Red State was classed as a horror I’d tend to lean more towards thriller/chiller than out and out horror. The horror aspect is more the extremities that these type of people go to in order to force their opinions on people. It’s a great film that really pulls at the emotions at times. There’s a few familiar faces in there, even a more filled-out Jen Schwalbach popping up along the way. I’d definitely recommend Red State but I’m not sure to who. I’m not sure that it’s got a particular target audience. It’s not an out-and-out horror, it’s not a completely psychological affair, it’s not an action movie, yet it seamlessly mixes elements of all three. It’s a big change from Smith’s usual fare although there’s still certain parts of the dialogue that stand up there with some of Smith’s more memorable. One thing I do have to say is that Michael Parks is fantastic again. Absolutely fantastic. According to Smith, Parks ad-libbed large parts of his diatribes. That’s not a totally unheard of concept but you’ll really appreciate that once you see how good Parks is in this. If you get the chance, get yourself along and watch Red State in the coming weeks. You won’t be disappointed. If you are then you’re of no use to me anyway.
On a sadder note, I’ve just heard that Cliff Robertson has died today at the age of 88 from natural causes. Being the superhero geek that I am, Cliff was Uncle Ben in the Spider-man trilogy to me. That said, he’s one of those faces that you always see pop up in so many films and shows over the decades. To others he may be more remembered for his role in Charly and the Oscar that came with it, but to me he’s Uncle Ben. Rest in Peace, sir.

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