Kevin Smith's leftist horror flick "Red State" falls short of expectations

Posted by Eli Cohen

It's an age-old story, one that we have all heard a hundred times before: boy meets girl online, boy talks to girl for a couple weeks, girl offers boy and his two friends a foursome, boys end up getting captured and killed one by one.

This is how the trailer for Kevin Smith's "Red State" portrays the recently released-to-DVD horror flick. The trailer shows a gritty, terrifying, and nail-biting experience, coupled with religious fanaticism and brief interludes of gunfights. But alas, as we discover so many times in life, looks can be terribly deceiving, if not disappointing. What the audience actually ends up with is a condemnation of the religious ultra-conservative (often referred to as "red-stater"), who seem to become almost a caricature at times. In fact, nearly everyone in this film ends up appearing so over-the-top and exaggerated that there are few characters that I was even remotely interested in by the end.

Granted, horror movies have never been known as the most plot-heavy genre, tending to rely more on shock value, gore, and things jumping out from behind furniture. What is problematic is that the part of "Red State" that is truly scary - the part that contains the suspense, horror, and revulsion - lasts a mere twenty minutes. After that there is some more overacting, a firefight, and John Goodman.

The end of the movie is especially disappointing. With so many possibilities, including an alternative ending involving the rapture, a giant sword-wielding angel, and the general end of days ("Dogma," anyone?), this film decided it would go gently into the good night. The conclusion is timid, unambitious, and, like the rest of the film, generally uninteresting.

The acting was ultimately the biggest letdown. John Goodman, Oscar-winner Melissa Leo ("The Fighter"), and Stephen Root (unforgettable in the cult classic "Office Space"), joining forces with Kevin Smith, the beloved slacker hero responsible for the "Clerks" series, "Dogma" and "Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back" should have been unstoppable. Yet, thanks to Leo's unbearable overacting, Goodman's complete lack of effort, and Root's unbelievably exaggerated character, they end up not only falling short, but failing to even come close to making this movie work.

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