Horror movies with religious undertones, or in this case more overt, are always particularly scary to me. It brings to mind great films like The Exorcist, Rosemary’s Baby, The Omen, Frailty, The Sacrament, Carrie, Hellraiser, The Devil’s Advocate, Martyrs, and many more. God, I could go on and on. You get the point. Some of the best and well known horror movies have to do with religion. I don’t know why I waited so long to see Red State though. Director Kevin Smith (most known for comedies like Mallrats, Clerks, and Jay and Silent Bob) takes a different direction with this surprising film. Even though it is categorized as a horror film, I think it would be better described as a thriller. Whatever you want to call it, it’s a thoughtful and well-done film.
It starts out like it could be a traditional horror movie. Three small town, testosterone-fueled fiends (one with a mullet, no less) answer an online sex ad in hopes of a crazy night with a wild woman. On their way there, they accidently side swipe a parked car, which holds the local sheriff and his secret “boytoy” having some night time fun. The boys don’t see who is in the car but the sheriff is paranoid and sends a deputy out to track them down. The friends eventually arrive at a trailer park and the intended woman drugs them. It’s a trap. The boys wake up in the church in front of the congregation who look as normal as you and me, full of old men and women, young parents, pretty teens and tiny toddlers. The local Five-Points Church is full of religious zealots who believe it is their right and duty to remove sinners from the earth. Let’s hope the deputy finds them before it is too late.
The film takes an unexpected turn in the second half of the film with an all-out gun war between church and cop, lead by special agent Keenan (John Goodman). A lot of people die, including pertinent characters, breaking all traditional movie rules. A lot of significant social topics revolve around the ever-developing plot including religion, homosexuality, and online dating. The story itself could almost be looked at as loosely based on David Koresh and the Waco massacre- a real cult that was ended in a 51 day FBI standoff and 76 deaths. These hot topics make the film relevant and that much more realistic.
This film turned out to be much different than I expected it to be, but in a good way of course. It could have easily fallen into the forgotten horror movie category, but Smith’s keen eye keeps it interesting and fresh. Though the film wraps up nicely, I actually wish it were longer than 88 minutes to expand the story a little more. If you haven’t yet, watch Vulgar– an extremely dark comedy produced by Kevin Smith in 2000. It is about a clown who gets gang-raped and then seeks revenge. Though I was hoping Red State would be a little meatier like this film, I was still pleased with the outcome. Kevin Smith’s upcoming film, Tusk, looks like it will be a nasty delight. After watching Red State, I am even more excited for Tusk, which releases next week!
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