2011 Sundance Film Festival-Kevin Smith Writes a New Kind of Horror Film with "Red State"
By Alex Reagan
When the list of films showing at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival was announced last fall, the one movie I wanted to see more than any other was Kevin Smith's Red State. At the time, I did not realize I would have to get up at 4:30 in the morning to catch a Monday 8:30 a.m. showing. But, sometimes you have to make sacrifices for the things you love. I love movies.
I have been a huge fan of Kevin Smith ever since 1994's Clerks. My college roommate and I watched Mallrats so many times, we can still quote most of it fifteen years later. Honestly, all of Kevin Smith's movies from the 1990's were staples in everyone's DVD collection during my college years. Of course, we all loved Jay & Silent Bob. After those early, independent Gen X masterpieces, Smith moved on to bigger box office projects. However, due to the intervention of the major movie studios (I think), he often failed to capture the magic found in his earlier work.
This time, with Red State, Smith returns to his independent roots and incredible writing skills. He brings to the screen a creepy look inside a cultish, fundamentalist church that closely resembles Fred Phelps and his Westboro Baptist Church. This isn't a typical horror movie, and this isn't a typical Kevin Smith movie.
The story begins with a trio of teenage boys answering an online ad from an older woman looking for a gang bang. However, the boys' fantasy quickly turns into a nightmare when they find themselves inside the walls of the Five Points Trinity Church. I am not going to give away any more of the plot, because I don't like spoilers. But, I will say this movie goes somewhere you wouldn't expect.
This film moves at a much slower pace than a normal horror flick; and, like all Kevin Smith scripts, it is filled with dialogue. It's not loaded with blood, guts, and gore. What's scary are the hate-filled characters of Abin Cooper and his daughter Sarah, hauntingly portrayed by Michael Parks and Melissa Leo. If you didn't think a church service, bible verses, and hymns could be disturbing...just wait until you see this movie.
This story is not an indictment of religion, but rather a warning against "higher powers" and extreme thinking. Towards the end of the film Smith reminds us of the saying,"When fascism comes to America, it will come wrapped in the flag and waving a cross.” This is a horror film with a message.
This movie left me shaken and my stomach turning. I don't recommend watching it as soon as you wake up in the morning, but I do say you should go see it when it comes to a theater near you. If you are a Kevin Smith fan, you will not be disappointed.
Sidenote: Betty Aberlin showed up again in a Kevin Smith flick. It was interesting seeing Lady Aberlin from Mister Rogers' Neighborhood in the horror genre.
***I will be posting videos from Kevin Smith's post-movie Q&A tomorrow***
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