The Devil's Work : RED STATE

Several years ago, I heard a radio interview with Shirley Roper-Phelps, the daughter of the infamous Fred Phelps of the Westboro Baptist Church (you know, those crazy bastards that protest the funerals of gay men and soldiers).  Initially, I tuned in thinking I'd get a good laugh listening to this hillbilly spawn of a fire and brimstone charlatan.  I was not prepared for the fact that Roper-Phelps is an attorney, extremely well spoken, and very well versed in the bible as well as the law.  I also was not prepared for the sick feeling I got in the pit of my gut as I listened to her conversation go from civil, to over-the-top -old testament-hatred that spewed like black bile from her.  What was even more disconcerting was that Phelps spoke so passionately about her beliefs that she left me feeling queasy and in need of a dose of some sunshine and, maybe, a long shower to wash her hateful vibe off of me.

That's kind of the same way I felt after watching Kevin Smith's, Red State.

Smith has always been something of a curio.  On the one hand, he's capable of some truly thought provoking issues in his work (see Dogma and Chasing Amy for proof), but more often than not, he seems to cave to the fan boy base that worships at his throne and litters even his best work with scatological humor, tit jokes, and  man / boys who can't or won't grow up.  With Red State, Smith has thrown out most of his crutches and crafted one of the most intelligent, and disturbing films I've seen in a long time.

What starts like a run of the mill horror film (three horny teens in search of sex find themselves in the middle of nowhere and are kidnapped) morphs into a story about the evils of small minded people and their religious beliefs as well as big government and its blood thirsty, vengeance seeking, cold heart.

Echoing everything from the Ruby Ridge confrontation, to the aforementioned Westboro Baptist church, to the paranoia spawned in the nation since 9/11, Red State assaults the viewer like nothing he or she has ever seen before.  Make no mistake, this is a horror movie, but it's about realistic horror borne of homophobia, religious zeal and governmental heavy-handedness.

Michael Parks  gives an Oscar worthy performance as Abin Cooper, the head of the Five Points Church where the deed goes down.  Parks plays his villain with such charisma and charm it is uncanny.  If this guy does not walk away with a gold statute next spring, The Academy should just pack it in.

Equally impressive is John Goodman as ATF agent, Joseph Keenan.  Goodman puts in  a terrific performance as a decent man asked to do the unthinkable.

Finally, then, there is not much more to say about Red State, other than to seek it out as soon as you can.  Surely this film is going to alienate as many people who embrace it.  Smith's fan base might really be in for a shock when they see what their idol is capable of when he is unfettered and not giving the people what they want (or expect).  The rest of us will just sit back, mouth agape,  and probably want to take a shower after it's all over.


Prospero said...

Phelps is a disbarred lawyer himself who, almost unbelievably, fought for civil rights in the 60's and early 70's. Then he lost his mind.

Shirley and most of the kids drank the Kool Aid a long time ago, though he has a son in Canada who is a straight ally LGBT rights activist and says he ran away after suffering one too many beatings at his father's and siblings' hands.

Did you see this OnDemand? I've been watching for it, but it hasn't played in my neck of the woods.

Jack Veasey said...

I haven't experienced Fred in person, but I have experienced Shirley. They did a protest at the Unitarian Church of Harrisburg when I was singing in the choir there. It was kind of like having Pumpkinhead crawl out of your TV screen and come after you. Imagine those vibes coming right at you from the person rather than your TV or radio --- Brrrrr. I think I'll go light some candles.

Te* (Slasher Film Sanctuary) said...

Hmmmmm. Well I think I will track this down and give it a looksee. I hope I don't regret it.

Legally Brunette said...

this sounds interesting. love John Goodman too. Coincidentally, they just decided that Phelps case on Wednesday - an 8-1 decision. only one dissent ruling in Phelps favor...citing 1st amendment as the supporting rationale.

anyhooo, me likey your blog stuff. i'm writing a book, where i post random excerpts and look for feedback on my content.

i follow you, follow me plz, ty!

Legally Brunette said...

PS> i thought the decision of SCU was outrageous. even as an attorney myself, the idea of 9 justices foretelling the fate of millions in one fell swoop is unsettling to say the least.

in this phelp's case - the westborough church pickets with signs that proclaim "God hates fags." - the point is rather attenuated, in my opinion. What i mean is, how do they connect the dots with that at a frickin' funeral. they claim God is punishing our country for condoning homosexuality.

when i read that i sat mouth agape, i cannot tell a lie. seriously, people....these people give good christians a bad rap.

just disturbing. really.