The Netflix Queue: Red State (2011)
Red State is available for streaming on Netflix.
Like many twenty-somethings, I spent several years adoring Kevin Smith’s comedy films. I may be one of only a handful of people who doesn’t totally hate Jersey Girl (listen, if it hadn’t been for the overexposure of Bennifer as a couple, you wouldn’t, either. It’s no cinematic masterpiece but it’s a cute movie). But sometimes, I flat out forget that he ventured into horror films with 2011’s Red State. I think that might be for the best.
Smith’s regular cast is absent from Red State, which is for the best: they are, after all, mostly friends of Smith’s who perform better with his comedic material. Jason Mewes just wouldn’t work here. It’s not without its standout performances, though, as the cast includes John Goodman and Melissa Leo, the latter of whom was fresh off a well-earned Oscar win for 2010’s The Fighter. Maybe it’s the post-Oscar curse, then, that ultimately dragged this film down.
Red State’s protagonists, the teenage Travis (Michael Angarano) and his classic Smithian slacker friends, embark on a road trip to meet up with a thirty-eight-year-old woman Travis met online, for sex. The gang puts no more thought into it, which would have worked fine in a typical Smith movie, but feels lazy here. Of course, everything goes horribly wrong and they find themselves kidnapped by the ultra-fundamendalist Five Points Trinity Church, a not-so-subtle stand-in for the real life Westboro Baptist Church.
The thing is, making an anti-WBC film isn’t exactly bold. Perhaps that’s why Smith opted for Red State’s bleak ending. It’s a much bolder statement, perhaps bordering on brazen and reckless in that its motives are not clearly thought-out and it causes a jarring tonal shift in the film.
Until that moment, though, Red State has is disturbing and unsettling in the way a good horror film should be. It’s too bad that late inconsistencies ultimately drag it down.