RED STATE (2011)

TMG Scale 8.5     P Factor 0.0     MPAA Rating: R
Starring  John Goodman, Melissa Leo, Michael Parks, Kevin Pollak

Why this film never made wide release has many roots. Perhaps too many theatre managers considered it too controversial. Perhaps, it is always a touchy thing when religious zealots capture, torture and kill people in the name of God. Or perhaps, the film makers just screwed up distributing a great film. (See below) But, if you want to really get scared about who occupies the house down the street, skip Paranormal Activity 3 this month and rent Red State.

Three teenage high school seniors, borderline nerds, are bored and horny. They decide to answer an online sex ad from a lonely, older woman wanting some action. To say they get just a bit more than they bargained for is an understatement. They end up at the hands of a religious cult  called “Five Points Church” that rails against gays, fornication (and apparently horny teenage boys) while promoting guns, child abuse and brutal executions of the “unclean.” The total and bizarre hypocrisy of this cult is perhaps a bit overdone, but realistic and scary none the less. Parallels are clearly made, and at one point stated, to the Westboro Baptist Church and Fred Phelps of Topeka, Kansas. Are the crazy nut balls portrayed in this film as bad or worse than Fred Phelps? —-Phelps and his abused children who picket funerals of American soldiers and condemn gays while having illegitimate children and suggestions of homosexuality in their own ranks. The question is certainly raised. You decide. One is a Hollywood fiction story. The other is a very real, horror story.

Michael Parks (who interestingly enough played Adam in The Bible in the Beginning way back in 1966) is Pastor Abin Cooper and Melissa Leo is his wife Sara. Both deserve Oscar consideration for their portrayal of, in TMG’s opinion, what the devil himself might just look like in human form.  (He may not always look like Adolf Hitler or Nancy Pelosi.)  John Goodman plays the rough and gruff Federal ATF agent brought in to issue a warrant on the Five Points Church rural compound on firearms charges. The raid unfolds in clear parallel to the botched raid on the Branch Davidian Compound in Waco, Texas in 1993.

This film will spook you and make you cringe. It will also make you think.  It’s downside is it take potshots (literally) at almost everyone. While clearly aimed at any extremest religion, it also gives a disdainful view of federal agents, local police, community hypocrites and beyond. Reportedly,  filmmakers Jon Gordon & Kevin Smith, AKA “The Harvey Boys” as listed at the opening of the film, also used the film to take potshots at major studio distribution methods and costs, and self distributed the film. This is probably why hardly anyone ever saw it. It is unfortunate. (“The Harvey Boys” name comes from Jon Gordon’s personal tribute to,  Harvey Weinstein of major film production company The Weinstein Company. Gordon and Smith were mentored there.)  Regardless, whether Gordon and Smith are genius, or just film producers ticked off at the world, or both, we can expect more great things from them.

TMG highly recommends this film for anyone over sixteen. It makes for great dinner time discussion everywhere…except maybe at the Phelps home in Topeka.

 

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