Director Kevin Smith has never been known for doing horror films. In his seventeen year career he has been widely known for well written, fast-talking, raunchy comedies. Red State is a film about a group of religious fundamentalists that lure in a few high school teens to make an example out of them. The tuation becomes eerie and beyond hostile when characters start to die in the name of religion and law enforcement gets involved in a very well-crafted horror/thriller.
Red State takes a unique approach to filmmaking in the sense that everything is shot handheld, giving the film a “bottom of the barrel” feeling with low angle shots and the occaonal crane descending on a interesting location and/or characters. Academy Award winner Melissa Leo plays Sara, a fundamentalist, independently driven woman with a family and a purpose. She does a great job at delivering heartfelt lines that make her deluonal character sympathetic and elevates the film to another level.
My favorite part of the movie was John Goodman who also gives a great performance as Joseph Keenan, an all-American family man that has been on the force for eighteen years. He gives the character exactly what it needs and that is heart. Michael Parks is exceptional and gives a great monologue at the beginning of the film that defines what this group of religious fundamentalists are all about. Through characters like these you really see how strong Smith’s screenplay truly is.
As expected, there are not many laughs in the film as they are not really appropriate for the type of film Smith is going for. However, the few that are there are truly hilarious and ironically charming. I will say that at times the editing was a bit shaky in terms of intercutting scenes here and there. When the film starts to get going is where it gets preachy, perhaps too much at times. Those are the main problems I had with it but if anything they’re are just nitpicks. Otherwise, it is a great piece of filmmaking that I wish Smith would gravitate more towards. There are a few action scenes that Smith constructs well and the dialogue helps support them, sometimes making things feel very realistic and horrifying.
There is a bizarre political undertone that keeps you guesng throughout the film. I kept thinking about the message and what the film was trying to say hours after watching it. You can sense Smith’s voice coming through a lot of these characters on topics such as religion, politics and law enforcement, just as it always has in the many previous films that he has written and directed. With Red State, Smith definitely shows that he is an auteur filmmaker, and by the end of this film I wanted to see ten more just like it.