“Red State”, Kevin Smith’s new movie, which is part horror, satire and political movie, has made its debut, first at Sundance, then Direct TV, now Netflix streaming, direct to me. On the way, it Oscar trolled its way through a few movie theaters, but that was just for show. Rated R for blue language and crimson gore, it is most disturbing, most horrifying in it’s eerily quiet interstitial spaces. None of Mr. Smith’s previous efforts have been very family friendly. “Clerks”, “Dogma” and “Chasing Amy”, as examples, while universally lewd and rude, they were also funny. “Red State” has no intentions to amuse.
Smith divides the casting credits into three categories, Sex, Religion and Politics. His story begins with three horny high school boys looking to get laid. They are first lured and then trapped by a fundamentalist Christian sect that seems strangely like the Westboro Baptist Church, as if taken to its worst, but logical conclusion. Enter act three, John Goodman, as an ATF agent, in a surreal sequence that devolves into a ’93 Waco like shootout. A post-mortem scene attempts to tie a neat bow on this mess. That is the plot, but it is not the story.
Every horror story needs a monster. Smith serves us up Abin Cooper (Michael Parks), the preacher of this little church. His sermon, which makes up a large part of this movie’s 88 minute airtime, is punctuated with long silences. Maybe some of those pauses were stretched beyond the needs of dramatic effect just to hit the ninety-minute mark? Abin preaches that God is only loving to the ones that fear him, really meaning just his flock. There are families in this church, husbands and wives, fathers, mothers and daughters, but not one son, an interesting directorial choice.
At the end of the sermon, the children are escorted out of the church. The boys that went looking for love in one of the worst of all places now reappear as human sacrifices. One thing leads to another, the cops are called, shots are fired and the movie moves on to its third act. John Goodman leads the ATF as they proceed to take down this sect, in a take no prisoners fire-fight. At the climax of this fight, Gabriel’s trumpet blows, Abin leads his survivors out of the compound, joyously welcoming the Rapture. End scene.
An epilogue, shot in a DC conference room, gives Goodman the opportunity to explain himself to his superiors and this movie to the rest of us. I won’t ruin this movie any further, except to make these observations. The epilogue, while long on exposition came up short on viewer satisfaction. Which maybe why Mr. Smith is rumored to have contemplated ending his movie back on the ranch, not just with Gabriel’s trumpet, manufactured by disgruntled neighbors, but with an appearance of the avenging angel himself. In this alternative ending, Gabriel slays all save Goodman and is soon followed by the four horsemen of the apocalypse. The End.