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Red State | Review

The Rapture: Smith Takes a Stab at Different Genre

Religious extremists, bumbling police/government agents, and horny teens. Put them all together and what do you get? A Kevin Smith (Clerks, Chasing Amy) comedy, right? Wrong…sort of. Smith has taken these comedic staples and put them dead center in a “horror” film (in quotes because it’s more like an action film with very horrific elements), his first foray out of the friendly confines of comedy, to great success. Yes, his trademark snappy dialogue and blunt social observations are ever-present in Red State, they sometimes threaten to overwhelm the tension and sense of dread that the film capably builds throughout, but they never cross the line. Smith detractors will argue to the contrary, but after close to a dozen feature films, the filmmaker proves he still has it.

In Red State, three Mid-West high school buddies looking to score answer an ad on a website from a woman (Melissa Leo) who wants to bed all of them at once. When they arrive at her trailer, she gives them some beer to calm their nerves and before you can say “uh-oh, I think the beer is drugged!”, all three collapse, passed out. Turns out this trap has been set by one Pastor Abin Cooper – a mesmerizing Michael Parks, in a tour-de-force performance that deserves Oscar recognition but won’t get it because it’s a Kevin Smith horror film. Leader of an ultra-right wing fundamentalist religious group, the character will stop at nothing to end the scourge of homosexuality and sexual deviance that have been wrought upon the earth by the meek and godless. Make no mistake: Cooper’s god is not Alanis Morissette from Dogma. Through a somewhat comical series of events, the ATF gets involved, led by Agent Keenan (John Goodman). This being a Smith film, the government doesn’t get off easy, either. Due to some stupid tactical errors, the mission goes sour and all hell breaks loose.

Technically, this is Smith’s most accomplished film yet. The cinematography by David Klein, especially his use of the RED camera, is just right for a horror flick, while the absence of any score besides the moments when Parks is singing some hymns gives Red State a feeling of realism. With strong performances all around, including some surprise appearances, this is a largely entertaining flick, with a couple of missteps that might irritate horror enthusiasts, but for our money, this is a poignant and scary film on a whole other level, offering a glimpse of a possible side effect of the volatility of the current political landscape in North America.

2011 Fantasia Int. Film Festival

Rating 3 stars

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