RED STATE: An ambivalently fun and terrifying horror flick
Red State, A-
Disclaimer: This is a review exclusively of the on-screen material and not the off-screen matters all of which are discussed in my previous post "alsdjflafsjd." I've spoken a lot about why this film is revolutionary but all of those have nothing to do with the content of the film.
ALSO, I will try my hardest to keep this free of plot spoilers.
Red State is perceived by many (rightfully so from the title and teaser) as an anti-conservative horror movie that's a progression in filmmaking ability for Kevin Smith but nothing too special. I was happy to discover that this film is in no way an attack on conservative America... it shows most characters (most importantly the religious fanatics and the cops) as morally questionable human beings. This aspect of the film kind of unfolds into one of the things that makes Red State special in the current marketplace (however it's nothing new as far as film history is concerned). Red State is brutally honest in its portrayal of many things. My favorite aspect is the coldness with which people die (okay so I guess it's a spoiler that there is in fact multiple deaths in a HORROR movie, I hope that doesn't suprise anyone). There are moments where people die and there's no grand significance. We don't focus in on the character and watch them fall in slo-mo as they cry and say their last words. It's just a moment of boom, gone, moving on. Sometimes you don't even mention them for the rest of it, and that's not because they're meaningless side characters. This quality of the film is one of its most disturbing. It stems from older horror films (the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre comes to mind) where the movies were about a crazy out of this world person/group of people...which is my way of saying Kevin Smith is NOT trying to show anyone as being this terrible. I'm not sure why else but it really makes me think about that Texas Chainsaw. That being said, I'm not putting them on equal ground (saying something isn't one of the greatest all time isn't an insult imo).
On the note of disturbing, I'd like to mention that I did not find it so (in not ridiculous language, the movie didn't disturb me). Unsettling a little but definitely not disturbing. This movie is a serious intelligent well-made horror film, but not like Black Swan or Antichrist. In fact (and I DO NOT mean this insultingly), I wouldn't call it a film. This is a straight up movie. It's a fun horror movie that is fun because of the content not because of how crappy it's made (like most wide release horror movies today). The entire crowd laughed many times throughout this film, it really does have Smith's usual humor. This is kind of shocking to think about at first, but the film is seriously a well-made horror movie that is clearly made by Kevin Smith in the respect that it is deifnitely infused with his personality.
I'll finish off with some more direct specific stuff:
My friend Jonny Glassman said it best: while the acting was excellent, the casting was superb. WELL DONE KEVIN. I personally think the acting was superb also. The film doesn't really have a lead it jumps around a lot of different characters but if there was any it'd be Michael Parks as Abin Cooper. Parks did such a great job not being over the top but having many subtle "moments of crazy" as he plays a pretty out of this world nuts character. John Goodman is good as always. Melissa Leo is also excellent as always. My favorite acting (aside from Parks) came from the 3 characters the film starts with, Travis, Jarod and Billy-Ray. In fact the film opens on a slightly unsettling shot of Michael Angarano (Travis). He's sitting in the passenger seat of his mom's car as she drives him to school. Something about his facial hair and the way DP David Klein (his best work I've ever seen) shot the moment/scene really affected me. I could feel the impending chaos that was to follow --> awesome job by Smith here. So yeah stellar jobs especially by Angarano and Kyle Gallner (Jarod). There's a scene I'd love to talk about but don't want to spoil. It's the scene when Gallner "wakes up." That's all I'll say. Angarano's final scene is really amazing too. The last performance I have to mention is Kerry Bishe as Cheyenne. Can't say anything without spoilers... JERSEYIANS, she's from Montclair!
This movie has a lot of action. He does these really awesome handheld (I guess... I've never held a camera so what do I know) chase sequences. I loved the way they were filmed and even more I loved the editing. It's funny that since Smith edited so quickly I'd expect that to be a weak aspect of the film... upon seeing the end product, that's one of the absolutely strongest parts of the film, especially those chases. I think he did a better job than his buddy Affleck did with action in The Town.
So in conclusion: Red State is an excellent MOVIE. It's riveting because it doesn't pull any punches. The writing AND directing are high quality, and I will say again the ensemble acting is brilliant.