Two months ago I was primed to watch a screening of Red State only for it to be cancelled at the last minute with the director ‘That Kevin Smith’ (his twitter name) citing the reason for his cancelation as him not wanting people who weren’t true fans of his and those who wouldn’t appreciate his movie seeing it for free. This was a press screening.
His less than cordial relationship with the press has been well cited after his instantly forgettable Jersey Girl and more recently Cop Out were rightfully savaged. Nevertheless, apart from the fact a cancellation at zero hour is grossly unprofessional and reeks of fear and insecurity at another savaging, his reasoning is far worse. Despite my disdain for his more recent films, I enjoyed Dogma and Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back and while I may not have cared for Mallrats or Chasing Amy but consider Clerks to be a gem, one of my favourite films of the 90’s and perhaps more than any other, a sign of the indie revolution. And I know I’m not the only member of the press who feels this way. So for Smith to generalise members of press as ‘unworthy’ of seeing his film for free is disrespectful above all else and apart from lowering my opinion of him gave me serious doubts about his latest endeavour, Red State, which is sold as a horror movie, with Smith returning to his roots to make independently.
What starts off as Clerks meets Hostel with younger versions of Randall, Dante and Jay all heading off in search of some cheap sex in an area of Jersey where a religious cult is prevalent, quickly turns into a stand-off between the police and a group of heavily armed cultists before concluding in a government tribunal.
The concentration is taken away from the three youths – whom I could have potentially given a damn about if they weren’t such foul-mouthed, derivative, unlikable characters – once they are caught and killed by fanatical preacher man Michael Parks and switched to an ATF agent (John Goodman) and his team trying to free the boys (two of whom are quickly dispatched) and other hostages from the radical religious cultists. The problem is I cared about the ATF agents just as much as I cared about the boys, which means when they start falling like flies at the hands of the cultists I felt nothing and was basically counting heads in the hope that once they’re all gone the cult would reign supreme, the movie would end and Kevin Smith would do like Tom Hanks recently did and refund me my money. Not that I paid, thankfully, although I’ll whisper it, because Mr. Smith launches foul mouthed diatribes on twitter about members of the press who ‘aren’t worthy of seeing his films for free’, regardless of how much they admired and loved his early works.
Melissa Leo, John Goodman and Michael Parks deserve praise for pumping some life into this limp corpse, but they’re not miracle workers. If you’re a fan of Parks and the monologue upon monologue upon monologue that Tarantino gives him, then you’ll particularly love this performance. If you’re not then this will be about as much fun as having Smith lecture you about the relevance of his latter works to cinema.
Red State is a confused mash up of genres that doesn’t know what it wants to be or what it wants to say but manages to feel as preachy as the cultists that it concerns. If there is conclusive proof that Smith needs a distributor, an editor and above all a producer with the balls to edit his script, then Red State is it!
Red State is released in the UK on Friday.