Three school friends use a website to meet up with a woman who promises them shenanigans, it's certainly a night they will never forget...
While some have criticised writer/director Kevin Smith over some of his more recent films, he is still firmly regarded by many as the man behind cult classics such as Clerks
- the sort of film which initially seem a bit puerile but reveal themselves to be full of warmth, clever observations and gloriously sweary narrative. In the initial scenes of Red State, banter between the three friends is sharp, sexually obsessed and very Smith-esque but Red State doesn't follow any formula and quickly becomes shocking. They are the victims of entrapment, a fundamental (with emphasis on the 'mental') Christian group has used an adult website in order to "harness the Devil's technique" and lure Godless perverts to cleanse America of its sin.
Those who felt that Smith had gone a bit 'Hollywood' have been silenced with Red State, this feels like a polished independent film which makes every effort to challenge the obvious. You never know what to expect from the film because the twists you see coming never happen, instead it heads off on a tangent and that constant sense of the unexpected gives it an added menace - anything could happen to anyone, no character is safe. Instead of a simple attack on religious zeal we get cynicism aimed at the police and the state itself. I've read comments by some who consider the film to lose cohesion because everything has been thrown at it, I disagree, just because it changes direction every few minutes doesn't mean it has no direction and certain elements have been crafted so perfectly. There's a reason why when surveys are carried out to see who the scariest film villains are, that Hannibal Lector often tops the list over the likes of Freddie Krueger. Cold logic and intelligence are always creepier than a psycho in a mask and Michael Parks is brilliantly intense as Pastor Abin Cooper, he is genuinely disconcerting to watch as he dehumanises homosexuals to justify his motives by separating gays from the rest of the human species. For him, it isn't murder, it's pest control backed up by scripture. He isn't just a bad guy, you understand his motives and see how he has achieved such a passionate following, clearly inspired by the infamous Fred Phelps and his Westboro Baptist Church - he takes "God Hates..." beyond banners and pickets.
There's not a poor performance in the entire film and the intrusive way the camera captures a lot of the action enables the atmosphere to really develop. The Blu-Ray looks great, surprisingly so because I expected it to look a little 'low budget', but the picture holds up well especially when you consider that a lot of the film takes place in near darkness. It's not as technically fantastic as most modern big-studio releases, but it doesn't suffer from any notable issues. There are some good extras on here which are worthy of a watch/listen - but the best companion for this film happens to be Kevin Smith's seperate Burn in Hell DVD in which he discusses the movie industry in general as well as specifics around Red State.
In a nutshell: This is the ultimate battle of church versus state. More a social satire than a horror - but with such a genuinely terrifying villain, this can proudly call itself a horror. I hope that Kevin Smith will continue to 'do his own thing' if the results are like this. I was going to give this 4 stars but it has stuck with me long after watching it and I feel quite defensive of it after reading a lot of negative stuff about it, usually from folk half expecting to see Jay appear and say how f*****d up it all is!