Netflix has broadened my horizons in terms of horror movies. It has put hundreds, if not thousands, of them at my fingertips for only about $8 a month. As a result, I’ve watched many movies I wouldn’t normally watch (and my trips to the local video store have trickled to a stop, something I feel kind of bad about since I know the people who own it). Red State is one such movie; my friends and I watched it on a lark a few months ago, and last night I decided to give it a re-watch.
Red State is sort of a hybrid movie; not quite horror, but not fully a thriller, with hints of an action movie sprinkled throughout. The story follows three horny teenagers looking to get their rocks off in small town America. The three go out one night in pursuit of a fling with a woman one of them met on a casual sex site online. What should have been a stupid teenage adventure turns horrific when the woman, who turns out to be a middle aged member of an extreme fundamentalist church called Five Points Trinity Church, drugs the boys. The three are taken to the church’s compound, where the bulk of the movie unfolds.
The social commentary aspect of Red State is not subtle in the least. The head of Five Points Trinity Church is Abin Cooper, an angry and charismatic fire and brimstone preacher who rails against the evils of modern America, especially homosexuality. His flock seemed to mostly consist of his family, including several young grandchildren. His flock protest military funerals, and in the beginning of the film they’re seen protesting the funeral of a homosexual teen who was recently murdered.
All of this may sound familiar if you’ve kept track of the news in the last ten years or so; Five Points Trinity is a pretty unsubtle nod to the real life crazies in Westboro Baptist, headed by Fred Phelps. The Five Pointers go one step further, though; while Phelps and his ilk call for God to smite America for its sins, Abin Cooper’s group takes divine justice into their own hands. The recently murdered teen? You guessed it; Cooper’s group was responsible. Another murder of a homosexual man is graphically depicted soon after the teenagers are captured and let me tell ya, it’s disturbing (although, during the commission of the crime there is a fairly humorous moment when one church member cautions another not to get any of the man’s saliva on him else he catch “the gay”. I can’t help but feel that some people genuinely believe that).
After the murder, Red State takes a turn toward action movie territory, when the ATF performs a (botched) raid on The Five Pointer’s compound, after one member shot a sheriff’s deputy. This is were the movie becomes weird(er), as John Goodman of all people shows up as an ATF agent heading up the raid. While the church is despicable, the government doesn’t come off much better as the situation quickly devolves into something similar to Waco. There is a great twist toward the end of the movie; I won’t give it away, but I would say it’s certainly ironic and I remember laughing later when everything came out.
Red State was, at least in my opinion, a good movie. It certainly had its flaws; I almost would have rather seen the movie stick with the teens attempting to escape the church, more like a The Texas Chainsaw Massacre type scenario, rather than turn to the action flick that it became. Be that as it may, the movie ends better than the original planned ending, where the honest to God, Biblical Armageddon began. I think the movie would have been better served had it been a straight horror flick, as I said in TCM style. But that wasn’t the director’s vision, and you have to respect what Kevin Smith managed to accomplish, despite the movie’s obvious problems.