I'm going to be honest with you: I've never watched a Kevin Smith film other than this one. Yes, go ahead, have problems with that. But that's not why we're here. I'm telling you this so you know that I had absolutely no expectations of this film coming in, other than that a friend of mine told me it was very thought-provoking.
And she was right.
I think "Red State" is an unappreciated gem of a film. Coming from the perspective of being fascinated with the Westboro Baptist Church, I especially got into it. If you don't know about the Westboro Baptist Church prior to watching the movie, you need to look them up. Because much of the film is based around a religious sect that is quite similar. In fact, Abin Cooper (brilliantly played by Michael Parks) gives a sermon in the film that essentially quotes the WBC's beliefs verbatim. It's hard to believe that people can actually believe this stuff--but they do. And that is what makes this story truly frightening. My favorite horrors are based enough in reality to be believable--as a matter of fact, I think something MUST be believable in order for it to be scary. "Red State" is not scary because it has monsters or buckets of gore. It is scary because it is probable: there is nothing more frightening than the terrible things human beings are capable of doing if they choose to.
In reading other reviews, I have noticed that many people criticized "Red State" for being all over the place or inconsistent. I didn't see that at all. Frankly, I appreciated the Coen-brothers-esque comedic breaks. John Goodman, especially, brought up some fond memories of "The Big Lebowski"-type humor. But I never felt that these breaks took away from the film or made it any less compelling.
Another note, and I mentioned this before with Michael Parks, is that I thought the acting in "Red State" verged on superb. Parks' performance as pastor Abin Cooper was spot-on, and the rest of the cast followed suit. The story was put together well, with a nice but brief intro and a plot that never felt too forced. I was pleasantly surprised at the way the story was wrapped up, too, even though it probably wouldn't count as a typical "happy ending." But stories like this don't typically have those anyway, do they?
To sum up: I wasn't expecting a lot from this movie. Negative reviews gave me low expectations. But, as usual, my curiosity got the best of me and I couldn't help but check it out for myself. "Red State" is a movie that I can genuinely say pleasantly surprised me. It is a little off the beaten path, slightly unorthodox, and subtly disturbing. But I loved it.
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