I had the honor of seeing a screening of Red State last night at Laser Pacific in Hollywood as part of the Red State of the Union film school program Kevin Smith held.
Prior to going in, I refused to read any of the Sundance screening reviews of the film because I wanted to avoid spoilers and go in with a fresh experience. I had high expectations and I was not disappointed.
The film begins with sort of the stereotypical horror movie formula, teenagers go out looking for sex and find themselves staring death in the face. However, what happens to them in Red State is a far departure from your standard Jason or Michael Myers flick. The film is hardly a stereotypical horror movie. In fact, Kevin Smith deliberately goes out of his way in this film to keep it far from the typical story arch and structure of most studio movies. Just when you think you know what is going to happen next, Smith hits you with another twist and surprise. This film is completely unpredictable and unforgiving of its characters.
I must congratulate Mr. Smith on the exceptional camera-work and editing in this picture. This is by far the best looking Kevin Smith movie to date. The constant use of hand held cameras and creative cutting, keeps you on the edge of your seat the entire time. I think a fair comparison would be Rob Zombie's "The Devil's Rejects" or parts of the original "Texas Chainsaw Massacre". Also, the film has no musical underscore. It uses ambiance and sound effects in place which works beautifully for this film. Most films use music to enhance the mood and make you feel a certain way. In this film, you can tell Kevin Smith doesn't care how you feel and wants you to just sit there and take it.
The cast is also spectacular. Michael Parks steals the show. Also John Goodman delivers the goods and has a lot more screen time than the teaser trailer suggests.
All in all, I think this film is one of the best films I have seen in the last few years. With everything being computer generated these days, it refreshing to see a small practical film like this which still holds as much power as one of the big boy studio flicks. And for those of you worrying about the political or religious messages, there aren't any. This movie does not preach religious views to you nor does it take any kind of political side. Its plain and simple. This is just a horror movie about a family of psychos. The fact that they are religious just adds to the terror.
The movie also features one of the best endings ever.