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Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Review: Red State (15) ★★★
Set in Middle America, a group of teens receive an online invitation for sex, though they soon encounter fundamentalists with a much more sinister agenda.

When Kevin Smith announced a couple of years back that his next project would be a low budget horror movie, the legion of fans that adore him became instantly intrigued.
Could Smith, arguably the master at low budget, pull off a horror masterpiece? He couldn't do any worse than his attempt at the action genre with Cop Out could he?

The answer is no. Red State is certainly not as bad as Cop Out, and most definitely not as atrocious as Jersey Girl, but to be fair, its not really as good as others in his catalogue.

For me the trouble is that Red State is not in actuality a horror movie. Sure it starts out with the good intentions of following the genre but somewhere along the way Smith seems to get distracted and after time the film becomes a bland siege movie.

We start by following three high school students who head out to a remote part of town on the promise of sex with an online prostitute. Once they meet up with the mysterious woman (Melissa Leo) they're drugged and we find that the whole premise was a ploy so that a religious cult can murder them for their sins.
Its all pretty straight forward, and does at times work well as a horror but after the killing of a local deputy and the inclusion of a swat team things turn to a generic bullet ridden siege fest.

Smith does try to make things interesting with killings that you won't see coming but there are too many scenes that mean and lend nothing. Characters are introduced but immediately you know they have no longevity attached while most are there as pure cannon fodder.

There's nothing wrong with the performances, they are as solid as you would expect from a director whose handled, and some would say, nurtured certain actors into becoming the biggest stars in Hollywood. Michael Parks is excellent as the head of the cult and Melissa Leo is crazy good as his daughter. The rest of the cast play their part as well as could be expected with John Goodman adding weight (no pun intended) to proceedings.

Along with the great performances is the dialogue to match. We all know Smith can turn out tremendous scripts hitting every pop culture reference there can be, but here he tones it down slightly yet still makes it work and match his characters. Unlike some Tarantino movies where you feel the character is a generic Tarantino creation, Smith gives his their own voice. There's plenty F bombs to reference Jay and Slient Bob (well Jay anyway) but it still all fits well.

So then we come to ending. It's a pretty decent twist expect for the fact that it needs explaining, which John Goodman handily does in one of the last scenes. This takes something away from it really. The great, classic twists were all immediate and so matter of fact that they left you open jawed (Planet Of The Apes, The Sixth Sense spring to mind) where as this one, even after the explanation, just seems to be .. .okay.

And that is basically my summing up of Red State. It's okay. There's nothing new here, Smith hasn't re-invented the genre or added anything to it, but he has shown that when he's left to make his own thing, with limited resources, he can still make a decent film.


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