Editor’s note: Wes Bridle and I go way, way back. Like, to high school way back. In some ways, the inception of his own website, American Nonfiction, was a parallel inspiration for Cinema Suicide. Sure, he doesn’t do movie reviews but he writes an awful lot over there and he’s made a bit of a name for himself doing so. When I was unexpectedly picked to sit in at a screening of Red State by Kevin Smith, himself, I couldn’t fucking believe it. The original venue was supposed to be his own home in Los Angeles, which I was all set to fly out and attend but when bloggers who didn’t get picked started pissing and moaning about impartiality at a screening at Smith’s home, Kevin switched the venue to a screening room and then went quiet until a few days before the scheduled screening. With no time to book a flight I had to come up with something quick and emailed a couple of writing friends out in Los Angeles with the stipulation that I needed a reply quickly. Wes decided several years back that New Hampshire could no longer contain his awesomeness and picked up stakes and landed his ass in Los Angeles which is really convenient for me and it was even better that he got back to me about the screening first. So here we are. Check out Wes’ review of Kevin Smith’s horror flick below.
Five years have passed since Kevin Smith first announced his intention to make Red State, a horrific tale loosely based on Pastor Fred Phelps and his Westboro Baptist Church taken to the absolute extreme. Fans of Smith have since anticipated and debated over what that result would look like. At this year’s Sundance, the wait was finally over. After the screening, Smith shocked the blogosphere by announcing his intentions to distribute the film through his SModcast Pictures label, release it on October 19th, and all but stated that Red State would be his last film. (His last film will actually be Hit Somebody -Bryan)
October 19th is a special day for Smith as it marks the anniversary of the release of his legendary Clerks. 17 years have passed from the day Smith first put his comical eye behind the camera lens and took it into a convenience store. If we are to believe that Red State is his grand finale, then his first jaunt into tales of terror becomes the culmination of a career that has seen Dogma highs and Cop Out lows. The standards are high and maybe slightly unfair to a film that holds 5 years of anticipated fandom and cost slightly under $4million to make. Though, a shoe string budget is nothing new to the filmmaker who brought us Clerks for $27,575 and Chasing Amy for $250,000, two movies that more than hold up against the common big budget Hollywood blockbusters. Yet, it remains to be seen if Red State can live up to that hype.
Three teenage boys are on the hunt for fast times with loose women. Through the wonders of the Internet, one of the boys makes an no-strings style connection for a gangbang with a hot-to-trot Bunny, who lives only 30 minutes away. The undersexed trio borrow a car from their parents and hit the road for unknown sexual debauchery. When the boys arrive at the lucky lady’s place, things are almost too good to be true. But after a couple beers and losing their ability to stand, our helpless heroes wake up with their limbs bound and ears full of scripture. Then the fun really begins.
From start to finish, Red State is an expertly captured movie by the wonders of our digital present. The dialog is punchy and very trademark [Kevin] Smith. From the slack jawed locals to fast talking suits, you’ll get more than few belly laughs. Yet, Michael Parks takes the cake and delivers a stellar performance as he manages to humanize and vilify the role of Pastor Abin Cooper, head of the secluded, family filled, religious cult. John Goodman comes in a close second with his portrayal of an ATF Agent who has to make hard decisions in the face of very dark days.
The movie meanders at a fast pace. From a slow start to a slow end, but the journey is surprisingly quick and tension is ever-building. Smith might sell you the seat but you will only need the edge, then you’ll sit back, only to be hit with another wave of the “what’s coming next” jitters. True to Smith’s “horror” label, Red State is a darker shade of the common Smith movie. But as every artist has their hallmarks, his fingerprints are ever-present in the production. The good with witty banter and the occasional dick and fart joke. And the bad, where the film is mired by Smith’s inability to capture violence. In Dogma, the camera focuses on a wall splattered with blood as off screen renegade angels slaughter a room full of executives at Mooby HQ. In Red State, the camera may never shy away from action but it also forgets to take a gory closer look.
Though the most lacking feature of Red State is the rich storytelling that propelled Smith to fame. The ride from trailers to credits, is a pretty straight shot with little deviation. There is no necrophilia, no three nippled women, and no movie defining scene. What is left becomes a group of characters who never fully develop into a point where the viewer cares about their fate.
Smith and company have made a true-to-life Horror film, in the vein of Blair Witch Project without the first person perspective. The events depicted could happen in the sparsely populated misty mountains of America and might play out in very the same way. Sure, it’s no over-the-top blood bath or rubber suited monstrosity, but the result is arguably more terrifying. Is Red State the film that Smith fans have been waiting 5 years to see? I’ll let you be the judge of that.
Kevin Smith kicks off a cross country road show in March. Check out Coopersdell.com for show locations and prices. Or wait till the “credited” release date on October 19th.