DISCLAIMER: It is tempting to frame a review of Kevin Smith’s new film, RED STATE, around its controversy on the business and social media side of things. Smiths decision to ‘four wall’ the film on a roadshow style tour and shutting out the usual publicity channels caused a bit of a tempest in a teapot at Sundance, particularly because seems to have become a lot more prickly in the past decade and has no problem broadcasting this to his fanbase either by his podcasting network or twitter account. That being said, I do not judge a Mission Impossible film by concerning myself with Tom Cruises thoughts on pharmaceuticals or his antics on Oprah, and I believe that Smiths film deserves a fair shake outside the confines of personality and gossip (and the business of show.) But it is hard, oh so hard, not to see things through the mist of online micro-controversies.
The ‘cult’ film is back, kicking off with the one-two punch of House of the Devil and The Last Exorcism along with the forthcoming Wicker Man sequel (Robin Hardy’s The Wicker Tree) and Ben Wheatley’s Kill List, the genre hasn’t seen this kind of surge since the mid to late 1970s. Sandwiched in the middle of the micro-renaissance is Kevin Smith’s radical departure from both the Askewniverse and pungent palette cleanser after his real horror film, Cop Out. Red State is not so much a cult-film as it is a film about cults, but one that defies expectations at several turns. Part diatribe against Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church (who is mentioned – and casually disregarded – explicitly in in the film) part torture-horror, part action-thriller, part bureaucratic farce, there are at least four films clamoring for dominance in Red State. And while Smith may not quite have panache for tonal shifts that the South Koreans have perfected, there are enough surprises on display here to warrant a recommendation along with a caveat or three.