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Kevin Smith goes to a dark place in Red State

By in Culture

rating: ★★★★

Red State, Kevin Smith’s first venture into the horror genre, is not your standard jump-inducing scary film. The 88-minute long endeavour follows a religious group, the Five Points Church, who are explicitly compared in the movie to the Westboro Baptist Church.

Like the real-life fundamentalist church, the Five Points Church protests public events such as the funerals of homosexuals with offensive signs and are all related by “blood and marriage.”

The beginning of the movie portrays three male friends who wish to “get up to the devil’s business” and seek out a woman on an online dating site to satisfy their needs. When they arrive at their destination, a trailer a few miles out of town, they are surprised to find a middle-aged woman in a sweat suit knocking back bottles of beer.

Michael Parks as fundamentalist psycho Abin Cooper.

Once the boys have been seduced into the trailer by the supposed temptress, they are given drugged beers. It is then revealed that the boys have fallen into a cleverly devised trap of the Five Points Church. One of the boys is kept in a cage and the other two in a dungeon under a church. At this point, it’s pretty clear where this movie is going: into a nightmare that seems horrifyingly believable.

Abin Cooper (Michael Parks) is the bat-shit-crazy leader of the fictional church. The family — including daughters, sons, spouses and grandchildren — sit in a room of pews while listening to the Fred Phelps-esque drawling about “the Philistines and sodomites” and “knowledge of the scripture.” Some of these family members, notably the older ones, are maniacally happy listening to a sermon about how homosexuals have brought “rabid fornication, adultery, abortion and flagrant sexuality into every corner of the media.” The acting seems overzealous at times but it does a good job of illustrating the reality of how brainwashing fuels extremism.

Not only does the movie touch on the threat of religious extremists, but also on the issue of gun control laws. Ever-present throughout the movie, Kevin Smith exposes the destruction that guns cause when combined with religious fundamentalism. Slogans such as “deny religion, deny morality” and “the Internet is the devil’s playground” that Abin Cooper and his fictional cult have memorized are not a far cry from the reality that is the WBC and other fundamentalist groups.

The end of the movie is absolutely fantastic. Its resolution may seem like a bit of a stretch but it’s really a witty, symbolic move on Smith’s part. Its only drawback is how unrealistic it is, as the climactic situation hardly seems like something that could happen in the good ol’ U. S. of A.

Nonetheless, this is a great movie, particularly for those who enjoy Inglourious Basterds or even Scarface. It follows in the same vein as these, as it explores those dark crevices of the human mind — those places we all possess and can get lured into without the presence of both critical thinking and open-mindedness.

A quote from the last monologue of the movie summarizes the whole message of the movie: “People do the strangest things when they believe they’re entitled, but even stranger things when they just believe.”

[box type=”info”]Red State is playing at the Roxy Theatre until Thursday, Sept. 6, 2011.[/box]

Image: supplied

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