If it weren't for the credits at the end, you'd never have realized that Red State was written and directed by Kevin Smith - the same guy who made Clerks, Mallrats, and Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back. This movie has more of a Quentin Tarantino flavor to it, and I found it to be very disturbing. I also really liked it!
The story begins with three teenage boys hitting up some kind of online sex rendezvous site where they find a local woman who is willing to take on all three of them. She lives way out in the boonies, so the three guys drive out to meet her. They arrive at a beat up old trailer and find the woman (Oscar winner Melissa Leo) standing on the porch drinking a beer. She insists that the boys all have some drinks, then asks them to undress. Before they can finish disrobing, they get sick and pass out. When they wake up, one is locked in a cage and the other two are trapped in a dungeon underneath a stage in some kind of church, and a sermon is in progress.
Michael Parks (Death Proof and Kill Bill) plays the preacher giving the sermon, and the topic is about how he thinks homosexuals are instruments of the devil. After a lengthy monologue on the subject, he asks the small children to leave, then reveals to have a gay man tied up to a cross and gagged. Some members of the church then wrap his head in cellophane and shoot him, then toss his body down into the pit with the other two boys. When it seems like one of the boys will be next, another manages to break free and it turns into a chase throughout the house.
After some other events are set into motion that have the police show up at the church property looking for the boys, the ATF gets involved. John Goodman plays the head agent on scene and since the media isn't around, his supervisors decide to treat the church group as terrorists and authorize the agents to kill every last one of them. The problem is that there are a lot of small children inside, plus some of the victims. The church members also have plenty of weapons, and it turns into a bloody firefight. Some members of the church want to die while others want to get the kids out, and the ATF doesn't know what to do because they are under fire the whole time.
While writer/direct Kevin Smith is known mainly for comedies filled with sharp dialogue, he's treading into new territory with this one. Other than a couple of one-liners intended more for comic relief, there is nothing funny about this movie. It's downright creepy at times, and quite bloody. During the preaching scene, he showed the entire sermon and it goes on a good 5-10 minutes in such a way that'll put you on edge. There is a nice build up to the action and plenty of surprises.
Michael Parks is great in this. His monologue about God and the devil and homosexuality is so terrifying because it sounds so much like the junk you hear from the Westboro Baptist bunch, as they were obviously the inspiration for this whole thing. John Goodman is equally good as the ATF agent stuck in the middle of it all. The rest of the supporting cast, which includes several familiar faces, were all great in their roles.
Red State is the kind of movie that is meant to rattle you. Parts of it will have you shaking your head in disbelief that anyone could think that way, and other parts will have you open-mouthed in shock at what just happened on screen.