quick review: red state

Kevin Smith (of Clerks et al. fame) made some waves this year over the release of Red State, the details of which I will not recount here but the end result of which was that there were scant few chances to see it on the big screen, and it is already streaming on Netflix.

Which, frankly, works just fine for me. I almost never go to the movies anymore.

That said, the movie deserves a wider audience than it will probably get, because I think it is one of the better thrillers made in the last couple of years.

The setup is familiar: some teenaged boys answer an online ad promising casual sex in the next town over, show up, and end up getting more than they bargained for courtesy of the local church that is a not-too-thinly veiled fictionalization of the infamous Westboro Baptist Church. What looks to be a pretty standard entry into what I call the "rampaging redneck" genre (i.e., The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, pretty much every movie by Rob Zombie) then takes off in some interesting directions. I don't want to spoil it, so I won't go into more detail than that.

None of which--I might add--is terribly ground breaking. But that is not the point. The point is that Smith has constructed a movie that moves fast, changes directions just when you think you know what is going to happen next (a couple of times), and manages to fuck with your expectations just enough to keep you interested, but all without resorting to any cheap M. Night Shamylan-style "twists". Perhaps more impressive, he maintains a high level of tension throughout without any musical soundtrack, and without a single digital effect (the movie was shot for $4 million).

And for the first time in I can't remember how long, the movie clocks in at under 90 minutes. It is superbly edited. No fat.

Beyond the plot points, Smith also manages to toy with our sympathies. Again, I don't want to give too much away. But I imagine many people may find this movie infuriating, and for vastly different reasons.

Bottom like: it's a good thriller (I don't think it counts as "horror" even though it has been billed as such) that moves fast, doesn't waste your time, looks good, and makes you think...but not too much.

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