Sunday, March 2, 2014

Overlooked Film of the Week- "Red State" (2011)

Overlooked Film of the Week-#46

Red State
Usually, for my Overlooked Film of the Week column, I find movies that I love that I feel need to be seen by everyone. Not every film that gets made has the marketing juggernaut as the Marvel or Disney or Tom Cruise movies. That's simply not the case, cinema has morphed over the years so that anybody from any background, possessing any amount of money can make a movie. I think its great and represents the very best our country can offer. On a rare occasion on this blog, I use my Overlooked Film of the Week column as a platform to showcase films I may not love, but that I have grappled with over the years. These are movies that I feel need to be seen for a couple reasons, then you get to make the decision of whether they are good or not. Such is the case today.

Back in 2011, I was wildly curious by the idea of Kevin Smith making a horror movie. This was the guy that made "Clerks," "Mallrats," "Dogma," "Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back," and "Chasing Amy." He even made the much hated "Cop Out." These comedies are always hilarious with a side of raunchy, but Smith always had something specific to say while we were rolling all over the floor laughing. So yes, I am a Kevin Smith fan overall and I could not wait to see his first horror film, especially sense he was dipping into religious horror, something that scares the crap out of me.

So I was a little disappointed to learn that his movie wasn't really a horror movie. Sure, there are some tense scenes, spooky atmosphere and sudden death, but nothing that really screams horror. Maybe that changes from viewer to viewer, but while radically different compared to the rest of Smith's filmography, its not what I'd call a horror film. Basically, three teenagers (Nicholas Braun, Kyle Gallner and Michael Angarano) sign up for an add to have sex with an older woman, just to be drugged and brought to the Five Points Church, a homophobic, ultra-conservative church. There, one of the boys witnesses the murdering of a gay man. Its pretty clear that The Five Point Church is a knock-off of the real Westboro Baptist Church. Its also clear that Michael Parks' portrayal of Albin Cooper is suppose to be a warped version of Westboro's Frank Phelps. Smith's metaphors are very easy to spot this time. As soon as we get to know the boys and Five Pointers we are quickly brought into a government response team, answering a distress call from the local sheriff. Pretty soon, a gunfight ensues, something that is awfully reminicent of the Waco Incident of 1993.

So its clear the Kevin Smith had a lot on his mind when he sat down to make "Red State," and after viewing this movie at least four times, I don't think his ideas are fully explored. We are suppose to feel for these teenagers who ended up at the wrong place at the wrong time, but we don't, they are never fleshed out as characters. We never get to know our crazy religious villains other than the fact that they hate government and gay people. The ATF agents who show to shoot the place up? They are a walking cliche, but its the work of John Goodman that really keeps our eyes open during the final stretch of film. In fact, the one good reason to see this movie is for the performance. The work done by Micheal Parks and John Goodman is done overly-well, and it keeps our interest through a "horror movie" that wraps up too much.

Then there is the ending, and I know Kevin Smith almost went for it, and I kind of wish he did. Because the film would have been much better if he did. You'll know it when you see it, when the shoot out looks as if its going to reach its climax, and loud horns start blaring. If you know your Scripture, you know exactly what Smith was hinting at. I would have thrown as much money as possible to make that ending happen. Sadly, it doesn't, and its treated like a quick joke. Sadly, everything in this movie is handled much too quickly. That remains part of the problem.

So once again, I will allow you to decide whether or not "Red State" is for you or not. There is some creepy atmosphere and creepy acting done by Michael Parks. There is also a great performance by John Goodman and the movie is full of provoking ideas, its even incredibly ambitious. I just wish Smith took more time to nurture its ideas and make them matter more. I also can't call this movie a horror movie, but I'll let you decide if you get scared or not, it certainly could have been scary. This movie has been a mixed bag since its incarnation, what did you think of it? "Red State" is currently available on Netflix.

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