Three redneck teenagers answer an internet post for group sex, but find themselves ensnared by Pastor Abin Cooper (Michael Parks) and his bloodthirsty congregation who are bent on stamping out such unholy debauchery – with extreme prejudice! It's up to the ATF led by Special Agent Keenan (John Goodman) to save the day. Waco anybody? God blessus and saveus!
It's hard to nail down exactly what sort of film Red State is. It's billed like a classic horror-slasher, but fails to deliver either frights or gore. It slacks off for too long and too often to pass for a straight-up action movie. The best box to dump this in is probably political comedy. It's really a sort of treatise on certain aspects of America – namely the religious right and the power of the government post-9/11.
Michael Parks' portrayal of a fundamentalist Christian cult leader is one of the scariest things about Red State. He keeps our attention right the way through a long sermon condemning the evils of modern society, forcing us to listen to some very objectionable ideas as his flock nod in the pews. If this is a horror movie, it's the terror of a belief, and of one man's ability to seduce with it.
Goodman gets Red State's other soliloquoy. Agent Keenan fights enemies on two fronts – his bosses in Washington and the cultists holed up in their church. He gets all the best lines and delivers them in classic Goodman style -- "Yeah, well, 'simple' just s**t itself."
Smith's background in comedy really shows. The dialogue is witty and entertaining, and the twists and turns of the plot give the film a real down-the-rabbit-hole quality. The mere situational comedy of Travis, Jared and Billy-Ray piling into someone's mom's car on their way to hook up with some lady in a trailer, swigging hooch as they go, is sheer genius.
Although the film is stylistically and aesthetically pleasing, it never builds pace in the same way a good action movie or horror flick does. That's the only weakness -- the film showcases Smith's talent as a writer rather than his acumen as director. It's not a bad film, it's just different. See it if you're in the mood for clever writing and a good story with a superb twist ending rather than a slick thrill-fest.
Red State is released in cinemas on 30 September 2011.