Red State

Director: Kevin Smith
Starring: Melissa Leo, John Goodman & Michael Parks
Runtime: 88 minutes
Rating: ***

Filmmaker Kevin Smith is by far best known for his work in the world of comedy, and you can’t think of him without bringing to mind his hugely successful, low-budget Clerks, which has earned him a huge cult following. Maybe this is why Red State seems like such a strange story for him to take on. Of course he has tackled religious subjects in his films before, but it has always been in a satirical manner, and until now he hasn’t created anything with such serious undertones.

Nevertheless the opening of Red State echoes his other work: we are introduced to a group of high school boys looking for sex and not much else. Using a dating app they find a woman in their area looking for the same thing. As they meet the middle-aged Sara (Melissa Leo), who gives them alcohol and offers to fulfil them all, their wishes appear to have come true. But things don’t get very far before the trio find themselves trapped like animals by the sounds of a a religious sermon taking place around them; the words of Abin Cooper (Michael Parks) continue before they discover what their grim fate will be.

Red State is a truly interesting and intriguing piece of filmmaking. Its subject matter is in many ways inspired by true life events, such as the Waco siege on the Branch Davidians, showing a very dark and realistic portrait of extremist beliefs and ideologies in the modern ever changing world. The later scenes of the film look into just how to deal with such behaviour in a post-9/11 world

It is disappontingly hard to watch the film without noticing some clear faults, even if you are rooting for it to be a great piece of work. Red State was marketed as a horror and indeed in its opening this is the case. But as the story continues it becomes difficult to categorize and hard to understand its intentions, jumping from horror, to drama, to thriller and so on. It makes the film seem incredibly disjointed and means that the story itself becomes quite weak. Rather than running smoothly from start to finish, the scenes feel like snippets that don’t quite fit together.

Although far from perfection, it’s worth seeing just how Smith’s vision and directing has changed. If you can get past its disjointed nature and slow pace, the story and the performances make Red State a captivating film.

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