Horror Week rolls on and on, swallowing up everything in its path. Can it be stopped? Will we survive?
Taking the fun from fundamentalist.
Three teenage friends travel out to the country for sex with a woman one of them met on the internet, but things don’t work out exactly as planned. A small, family-based, Christian fundamentalist church group who protest the funerals of gay people find their secluded compound surrounded by a trigger-happy contingent from the ATF. What do these plot strands have in common? Together they make Red State, indie legend Kevin Smith’s self-proclaimed first horror film. Boredom (and a mild distaste) ensues.
Kevin Smith has accomplished a bit of a milestone in my personal film-watching experience: Red State is quite possibly the most nihilistic movie I have ever seen. There is not one sympathetic character here. Maybe that’s part of the point, but while watching this I found myself hoping it would end with the total annihilation of all mankind. That’s not a feeling I enjoy. It’s a bit of a shift for a writer/director who made his reputation with fast-talking comedies like Clerks and Mallrats. Smith has always been a better writer than director; he has a rare gift with naturalistic dialogue, but after helming nine other pictures his sense of pacing is still undeveloped. The way he directs the action in this film is a bit amateurish as well. There’s no real sense of the geography from one shot to the next, and his overuse of the shaky-cam is enough to give you a headache.
The biggest problem about Red State is that Smith can’t seem to decide on a tone. He claims the flick is a horror – which is why I watched it this week! – but that’s not the word I would have chosen. It’s unsettling at times, mostly thanks to Michael Parks’ performance as the charismatic and psychotic preacher Abin Cooper, but the film descends into self-parody too much to be truly horrific. It’s mean and nasty, but it’s not a horror.
Besides Parks, the rest of the performances are all over the map. Melissa Leo overacts like her life depends on it as Cooper’s devoted daughter. John Goodman’s Agent Keenan is the closest thing to a heroic character, but he too resorts to some pretty distasteful actions. Smith commits one terrible sin in his casting [spoiler ahead] by bringing in comedy legend Kevin Pollak as Keenan’s second in command, giving him two lines then blowing his head off. Disgraceful. [End spoiler] As for the three teenagers (remember them?), that’s another mishandled element. The reasoning behind what happens to them makes entirely no sense whatsoever.
Kevin Smith’s ambition in trying to stretch himself artistically is to be applauded. Unfortunately, the end result is not.