Despite the negative press I have read about Kevin Smith's Red State, I held out a lot of hope that I would come away from the film with a different opinion. I'm not one to reflexively adopt other peoples' opinions, and I have enough fanboy love for Kevin Smith to approach any of his artistic efforts with an open mind. However, any hope I had for this movie was systematically torn from my being as I watched it. Apparently, when a Kevin Smith movie goes bad, it goes balls to the wall. This is bacally the horror genre equivalent of Jersey Girl. That is, if you conder this film to belong in the horror genre at all, which is debatable, nce it never seems to decide exactly what it wants to be.
The film is indeed bloody and violent, and certain moments are even startling. But just when the plot seems to be working up a really good scare, it veers off in another direction and attempts to scare you in a different way entirely. If this happened once or twice, I'd call it a "twist". Here, it more closely resembles bits and pieces of different movies incongruously glue-gunned together. We end up with a film where the social commentary isn't quite biting or clear enough, the villains are far more thoroughly developed than the protagonists, and large chunks of the plot end up needing to be explained at film's end through lengthy expotion, rather than through action. To be honest, I had trouble getting through even the first few minutes, as I was introduced to 3 teenage boys who didn't look like they bathed very often (because they're from the south, y'all) who had no motivation whatsoever beyond finding some woman, any woman, who might have sex with them. This might be an accurate depiction of how many teenagers act, but it's been done to death in horror movies, and it's really not very compelling. I kept watching because of my faith in Kevin Smith. I thought he might elevate these characters to greater heights at some point along the way. Sadly, that was not to be.
Skipping ahead a bit, these 3 repulve boys end up being lured by the promise of middle aged vagina into a trap, and held captive by a congregation of fundamentalist gun-nuts, led by a sadistic, but well-spoken preacher. Most of that is on the synops on the movie case, so there's no major spoilers there. I won't say much else about the actual order of events. But I will say this: given that this church (which is based to some extent on real life hatemonger Fred Phelps) seems to exist almost entirely to kill gay people, I couldn't help but think the movie would have been more effective if Mr. Smith had replaced these cliched and unlikable heterosexual teens with well-written gay ones. It would have been less awkward than trying to explain why a group of homophobes would go out of their way to snare horny straight kids. I almost feel like Mr. Smith didn't trust modern audiences, including his own fans, to be sophisticated enough not to instantly reject a horror film where the central characters were gay. Instead, we get a movie where the kids are just like the ones we've seen in countless other movies (but worse), and are almost as hard to root for as the villains. Midway through the film, it seems we might get some relief from this moral quagmire in the form of an FBI agent who really seems to know his stuff, played by John Goodman. Again, it's not to be. Goodman's character doesn't care about much except protecting his career and his upcoming retirement. He turns out to be quite the yes man, following whatever unsavory orders he is given. The few FBI agents who initially bristle at these orders quickly shrug their reservations off, becoming just as trigger-happy as the fundamentalists and far more fickle. At least the fundamentalists have convictions, as disgusting as those convictions are. Through it all, the normally superb Goodman seems thoroughly bored with the proceedings, even when he's bellowing into his phone while under assault from a hail of gunfire.Somewhere along the way, the movie decides to veer off in yet another direction by trying to humanize and garner sympathy for one of the adolescent fundamentalists. Apparently, it's supposed to be enough for us that she doesn't cotton to the murdering of toddlers and babies (presumably, unless they display any gns of latent homosexuality). This character probably could
have been redeemed somewhat, if she'd been given a satisfying story arc wherein she showed any real regret over the actions of her church, or experienced any real epiphany. However, the movie is too rushed and incoherent to provide her that. It doesn't help that the actress playing this character displays one of the worst faux southern accents you will ever encounter on film.Long story short, the only constent element of this movie is that all of the characters suck. I didn't care when anyone died, I didn't care when anyone lived, I just wanted it to be over. I only kept watching out of sheer disbelief at how badly it turned out. Kevin Smith owes me 2 hours of my life back.With ncere regret, I give Red State 1 and 1/2 out of 5 stars.