Ric’s Netflix Picks: “Red State”

red-state-cooperGuess what I have under this sheet?

Hate and insanity for everyone!!!

Three midwestern teenagers, Travis (Michael Angarano) and his two friends, answer an online ad for a woman willing to have group sex with them. Their plans go awry, and the boys find themselves kidnapped. One of the teens quickly recognizes his captors. They are members of the Five Points Trinity Church — to some, a religious fundamentalist organization, to others, a hate group — and they have murderous intent. After a rousing sermon from Pastor Abin Cooper (Michael Parks), the boys watch as the members kill a homosexual for being, as they see it, “an abomination.” Each of the boys begin to individually hatch their escapes. During one of their attempts, the police become aware of suspicious activity at the religious compound and a fierce standoff ensues, with ATF Agent Keenan (John Goodman) leading the charge. What will become of the boys, the members of the church, and Agent Keenan? Does God have a larger plan for them all? And whose side is He on?

Red State features a slew of supporting actors and I will get to name dropping a few later on, but the major draws are Parks and Goodman. Parks is obviously playing an exaggerated version of Fred Phelps, leader of the here parodied Westboro Baptist Church, and he does it remarkably. His performance is full of vigor and fire, and conveys his characters’ unwavering belief that “God hates fags.” Goodman does not show up until the movie is well underway, but his entrance is welcomed and helps to solidify the second half of the film. His monologue towards the end of the film is stalwart and fitting. On the supporting actors front, we have two Breaking Bad faces in Anna Gunn (Skylar White) and Matt L. Jones (Badger). Stephen Root, mostly known for his role in Office Space (“I believe you have my stapler”) is just as charming as ever. Kerry Bishé has a notable role as Cooper’s granddaughter, Cheyenne, but she will probably be recognized for her work on the obtuse season 9 of Scrubs.

Red State, directed by Kevin Smith, is a bold film in terms of characters and story. In a departure from his normal style, Smith drives home the point that this is a serious horror film by avoiding crude humor. This movie should be remembered as his best film to date. After watching, be sure to check out his stand-up special Kevin Smith: Burn in Hell (rating: 4.0 out of 5) in which he discusses the film, a Westboro Baptist Church member’s reaction to it, and the original unfilmed ending. It’s a humorous complement to a serious parody.


4.5 out of 5.0


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