12.20.2011

Shut The Fuck Up!

RED STATE (2011)
Image from advocate.com.
This movie was exactly what I needed it to be. And then some. It was really only a matter of time until I saw it. I didn't have any legitimate reason for putting it off, just...never really got around to it. And really, there's no better time to watch it than now, it's an excellent palate cleanser when the insides of your mouth get too sticky from constantly swallowing Hallmark inspired cotton candy made-for-TV Christmas movies. All you need to know about Red State is that it's a Kevin Smith horror movie based off the crazy fucks at Westboro Baptist Church. The end. See it. But since that makes for a depressing short review, I'll elaborate. In the spirit of the credits, I'll stick to the nice labels Kevin Smith put on his characters. 

Image from blogs.indiewire.com
1. Sex: The film starts off with three well meaning but doomed teenage boys happily chasing the tails of their own destruction. In other words, the way every good horror movie starts off. Too much booze, too much sexual frustration, too much rat tail. Their quest starts innocently enough--just a simple internet hookup to gang bang a woman old enough to be their mother. It is interesting to note here that none of the victims of this evil group are actually gay, which is an interesting move on Kevin Smith's part. Does it push the one group that is actually directly victimized by these batshit crazy people under the rug? Eh. Maybe. But it also opens the threat up--hey, so you think your kid is safe from radical god-hates-fags groups because he doesn't actually swing that way? Wrong. No one is safe. Fred Phelps WILL gag your kid, tie him to a cross, and shoot him in the fucking head. Hide your kids, hide your wife. 

In other news, the actors were fantastic. All three kids completely sold me on their roles. I'd already seen Kyle Gallner in A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010), The Haunting In Connecticut (2009), and Jennifer's Body (2009). Never mind the fact that none of those films are going down in the hall of fame (remaking A Nightmare on Elm Street? Who gave you that smart idea, a crack peddling monkey?), Kyle Gallner still proved himself to be an excellent actor in every crappy role he was given. And he didn't disappoint in this one, he had a great fuck-it-all intensity that carried him through the movie. And then there's Michael Angarano, who plays Travis, who I've never seen before in my life, but who I like already. I was holding my breath praying that poor kid made it out. Finally, lastly, good ol' Billy-Ray. Nicholas  Braun was spot on with hitting every note of Kevin Smith's comic humor and I salute him for that. 

2. Religion: Fucking Michael Parks. Why doesn't this guy get more work? If all the amazing mumbling work he's done for Quentin Tarantino doesn't prove that he's awesome, this movie does. If it wasn't for his voice, I wouldn't have recognized the guy. He's thinner, scrawnier, more psychotic. And that voice. That charming, soothing voice that would convince anyone to join a cult. He nailed the role and scared me the Jesus out of me. His intensity was matched only by the equally psychotic Melissa Leo. There's a reason this woman won a fucking oscar. She's crazy. Completely. Batshit. No one can do psycho older woman like she can. Really, she worries me, I'm not gonna lie. 

The interesting thing about these people was...they weren't all batshit crazy. There is, for example, dear little Cheyenne. Who also happens to be a fox. That aside, she's...crazy in her own way, sure, but unlike all the rest of the cult followers, she isn't quite so ready to send her soul up to the big man in the sky. She gives the cult a nice human face, which surprised me considering I figured this was going to be something akin to The Hills Have Eyes (2006).  But maybe their added humanity just has something to two with the next group of insane people.

3. Politics: Yes, the government paid men were psychos. Yes, John Goodman was a badass. And yes, Kevin Smith, I saw you trying to pull a Fargo (1996) there. But I will say this: the last twenty minutes of the movie pulled the rug out from under my feet. In a good way. It's not any "big twist", but the movie definitely takes a direction you never saw it going in. It's a lovely little Christmas package wrapped nicely with Kevin Smith's ruthless characters, his political jobs, and his devilishly twisted sense of humor. In short, I can't really get enough of this man, and this movie definitely reenforced by belief in his badassitry. It's brilliantly written, brilliantly acted, kept me on the edge of my seat, and had a subtle touch of his inescapable humor, all perfectly paced and rounded out to exactly 90 minutes. 

Enough of the man love. In the last, hilarious words of Kevin Smith, it's time for me to shut the fuck up. But if political rage, good old fashioned cult horror, and my bro K Smithy are all things you're into, I definitely recommend checking this one out.

Kevin Smith happily protesting across from Westboro folks.

3 comments:

  1. Great review! I gotta say, the really impressive thing about Red State is that's it's completely different to what Smith has done before. Since he has often described himself as lazy, I was worried that he'd just completely given way to that, and that laziness would mark the rest of his career.

    I don't mean to rag on your man, but I lost a lot of faith after seeing Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back in the theater. Too many celebrity cameos without enough character development, a lot of jokes that were "chuckle" funny instead of "laughing hard" funny. Clerks 2 had some great laughs in it, but it was too repetitive and (like JaSBSB) self-indulgent instead of telling a good story and making great jokes.

    This was all disappointing since I loved Clerks, and loved loved loved Dogma. Hell, I enjoyed Mallrats, for all its flaws.

    Red State has a different pace and tone and style to any of his other work, and I really respect Smith for that. It successfully used its goals and themes to tell a good, interesting story. I consider this a great sign that Kevin Smith the filmmaker (not just "Kevin Smith, great comedian and public speaker) may actually develop and fulfill the promise I saw in him back in 1994.

    PS, check out my review for Hunter Prey, watch it, and let me know what you think. I have a feeling you'll like it a lot.

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  2. SMith did a great job with this one. It was so different than I expected. I think his choice to make the boys hetero was an interesting one, and illustrates the real slippery slope kind of thinking some of these nut jobs have. They start out with the gay and in two steps they're after anyone getting laid with the lights on. The other unexpected part was in not making the westboroish group the only bad guys, some super cold blooded g-men! I'm not sure if i "enjoyed" it, but it was a really good watch!

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  3. @ Thaddeus--Thanks, homie! I'm actually with you there--for as much as I love Kevin Smith, I love him because...well, he makes fun movies. Some of them are flops, but you still have fun watching them with a group of not entirely sober friends. Which is really all I need in a director.

    But this was certainly a change of pace for the man, and he pulled it off better than I could've ever expected. Best of all, he didn't entirely lose that comic edge that we love about Kevin Smith--yes, it's a horror film. But it has that political satire followed but some good old fashioned "fuck this shit" with Kevin Smith's two cents in the end.

    And Hunter Prey, you say? I'm on it!

    @ Brent--He really did! Interesting clarification between "enjoy" and..."enjoyish". But it's certainly a movie that is enough to give anyone the creeps and keep their kids tucked away inside. But I agree with you completely, the two twists you mentioned were really what sold it for me. Not only was it unexpected coming from Kevin Smith...it was just a straight up unique way to tell the story!

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