Red State (2011)

It’s like ‘Dogma’, with a lot of guns.

Three horny teens go off for a one-night stand with a chick (Melissa Leo) that they think will get it on with them all at the same time. However, they end up being kidnapped into a little freak-show for these crazy Jesus-people that don’t like gay people. The teens soon try to find a way out of the church as the local police force comes in to also raise some hell.

Kevin Smith is a favorite of mine and almost all of his films, except ‘Cop Out‘, all have made me happy and enjoy the hell out of myself. I know a lot of people out there in the world hate this dude but for some reason, he always strikes a cord with me. That’s why I’m so glad to see it when he does something that is totally different from anything else he usually does and at least tries to branch out a bit more than what we have seen from him.

The premise for this film is awesome because it’s a horror film about things that are out there, rather than just ghosts caught on film, or dudes named Freddy, Michael Myers, and Jason running around killing teens. The film is obviously based on the crazy Westboro Baptist Church people, lead by Fred Phelps, who the people that follow this church actually look up to him as if he was the big G.O.D. himself. I like this concept because I hate these people and anytime somebody wants to show them in a bad light and practically get effed up every second, is something I want to see and stand behind. Hey, I know it sounds vicious but just type these people up on YouTube and you’ll see what assholes they really are.

What Smith does here, unlike any other film he’s done, is add an extra-layer of detail to not only his script but also his direction. Seeing that his only action film is actually the crap I mentioned early, it’s highly impressive how he is able to bring a lot of tension and grittiness to the screen to give you this feel of just terrible things are going to and will happen. This is in-your-face gritty with plenty of people getting shot, and sometimes you don’t know who will so you have that whole unpredictability to it as well that Smith is able to bring out well.

When it comes to his script, this is obviously a Smith film but it still has many different elements that can make a lot of people have their heads scratching by the end of the film, when they actually see who wrote and directed this. There is a real dark and sinister side to this film with barely any comedy or toilet humor, which is what I usually love about Smith films but here it was a pretty good way of focusing on actually creating tension and an atmosphere.

However, I do think that this film had its fair share of problems that took away from my overall experience. I feel like Smith does a lot of preaching here that at first seems legit, then it just becomes something of an annoyance where I actually wanted the story to move forward rather than just showing me all of these crazy Jesus people freaks, preaching and hollering about the same old shit every time. I get the fact that Smith is trying to get his point across, but when you have a speech that lasts about 13 minutes talking just to get a point across, it’s not just torture for the people in the film but for those who are actually watching it as well.

In terms of the horror department, I also felt like something was missing from it to actually make it scary. Take it for granted though, this is not your typical horror film so obviously we aren’t going to be getting jump-scares every five seconds, but too much of it felt like people just shooting each other without any real scares or horror to back it up. Don’t get me wrong, I like it when people that I actually dislike so much before I even get to know them get shot up left-and-right, but there were times when even that was gone and there was nothing to really keep it compelling.

Also, why the hell did that random-ass timestamp come up out of nowhere, for no reason whatsoever, and then never come back again? Maybe it was just another one of Smith’s crazy and weird things he just wanted to do for fun.

The cast is pretty impressive considering Smith doesn’t use anybody from any of his previous films, even though I wouldn’t have minded seeing Jason Mewes or even Jason Lee for that matter. John Goodman is good and pretty aggressive as Joseph Kennan, the police dude in charge who has a very good scene by the end of the film; Melissa Leo is one-note as Sara Cooper, but she’s still an easily-hated character from the start; and Michael Parks is very evil and devilish as Abin Cooper, the man behind this church. Everybody’s good here but it’s just one of those cases where it’s more of the director’s show than the people themselves.

Consensus: Red State has a great premise to work off of, a good direction from Smith, and a script that is more than just dirty jokes that he usually has in all of his films, but there are many times where it loses its compelling feel and goes on and on and on about the same point till where it overstays its welcome by a long-shot.



  1. Annoyed that this didn’t stick around screens at all here, so will wait for it to show up on the small screen. I’m not a fan of Kevin Smith as such, I’ve enjoyed some of his films (Dogma being my all time favourite), least I’ve got some sort of expectation for this now.

  2. I just caught up with this film on DVD, and I had a similar reaction to yours. I’m glad that I saw it and enjoyed certain scenes a lot, but he hits the nail on the head a bit too much. I like the audacity of his approach, especially with the government response, but it doesn’t add up to a compelling film from start to finish. Some strong scenes and an interesting topic, but not completely successful overall. Nice review!

    • It’s not an entirely successful film because it goes all-over-the-place, but I do think that Smith shines very well in a lot of moments that we weren’t really expecting him to in the first place. Thanks Dan!

  3. I didn’t care much for this one either. It has a great concept, but the movie was kind of all over the place. It’s nice to see Kevin Smith branching out, though.

  4. Big Smith fan so this sounds great to me but the mixed reviews are helping me to manage my expectations. Hopefully that means when I finally see it, I can enjoy it!

  5. If you get the DVD, watch the Michael Parks interview (in Special Features section). The guy is a legend! See more if him on:

  6. No one hates Kevin Smith more than me, so that fact that I quite enjoyed this should act as some sort of validation. Not great, but good enough. Nice review, Dan.

  7. I hated this movie so much and this is coming from a Kevin Smith fan. I don’t know what Smith was going for with this because it was so scattershot in terms of direction but whatever the goal was he failed miserably. Everything about this movie annoyed the living hell out of me except for Michael Parks. He was the only thing that kept me interested and from giving this movie an F in my own review of it:

  8. Really wanted to see this film, but was only shown in the U.K. on limited release. I really like the concept and the cast is supposed to be excellent. I’ve been a lifelong Kevin Smith fan and like to see that he has branched out for his last two films (this and Hit Something, a documentary about ice hockey which comes out later this year, I think). Looking forward to finding the blu-ray in my stocking this Christmas!

    Merry Christmas Dan!

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