It seems like Kevin Smith lost his way a bit when he churned out Cop Out a couple of years ago, which was a pretty average buddy cop movie that was in no way related to his View-Askewniverse classics. So perhaps he can get back on track with this... horror story about extremist Christians?
Yes, that's what this movie is about. Basically, three horny teenagers find an older woman online who is willing to screw all of them together, but when they arrive at her place they are quickly drugged and caged up in the church of local pastor (or rather, cult leader) Abin Cooper (Michael Parks). After a long and preachy sermon about how gays are bad and deserve to die, along with other sexual miscreants, they start to murder their captives. At the same time a task force led by Agent Joseph Keenan (John Goodman) arrives at the compound, responding to a potential terrorist threat posed by the group and their horde of weapons.
There is clearly a train of thought running through this movie, but it's kind of hard to stay on top of it. The compound and group itself is obviously based upon the infamous Westboro Baptist Church and its leader Fred Phelps, the comparisons are laid out plain as day, the only difference is that the guys in the movie have guns and end up using them when they are threatened with arrest. There's also a message about a response to such a threat of domestic terrorism, and how the group are dealt with over the course of the movie. The focus of the plot chops and changes quite rapidly, and Kevin Smith is not afraid to dispose of characters once they've done their part to advance the plot.
The whole thing really feels like an unfinished Coen Brothers movie. There are certainly some strong characters in Red State, especially the pastor himself, and the part played by John Goodman. They are both featured in a couple of scenes that provide them with some great lines, and they are delivered wonderfully. But it seems like Smith is trying to do too much with the one movie. The chopping and changing of focus and subject matter just feels too rushed, and a person could come away from watching this with a confused bundle of messages.
Red State starts out as an adequate horror movie, but quickly loses its way and plunges into other subject matter, which is somewhat saved by some good performances throughout. Perhaps if it were a little longer it would have a chance to steady itself, but instead I was left feeling like Kevin Smith could have done better, as he has proved by his past movies.
My rating: 2/5