While the United States has made large strides in recent years towards expanding the rights of the homosexual community, including six states legalizing same sex marriage and the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, there are still Americans who judge, and discriminate against, people based on their sexuality. Writer-director Kevin Smith surprisingly heavily focuses on the controversial subject in his horror film ‘Red State,’ which is now available to rent on DVD at select Long Island Red Box locations. The genre isn’t generally known for focusing on social commentary, but the movie does a respectable job of showcasing the different perspectives on the important issue.
‘Red State’ follows teenager Travis (played by New York native Michael Angarano) and his friends, Jared (portrayed by Kyle Gallner) and Billy Ray (played by Nicholas Braun), as they accept an invitation from Sarah Cooper (portrayed by fellow New Yorker Melissa Leo), a woman they meet on a sex Web site to have group sex. They borrow Travis’ parent’s car to meet her, and along the way, they accidentally sideswipe Sheriff Wynan’s (played by Stephen Root) vehicle. The boys drive away, afraid of the consequences of the accident, and continue to Sarah’s trailer.
Once the teens arrive at Sarah’s trailer, she drugs all three of them, and when they wake up, they realize they’ve been brought to Five Points Church. The congregation, led by Abin Cooper (portrayed by Michael Parks), strongly opposes homosexuality and anything else that goes against the teachings of the Bible. Abin tells his followers to kill Travis, Jared and Billy Ray for wanting to engage in group sex.
After one of Wynan’s deputies searches for, and finds, Travis’ car at the Five Points compound, he’s subsequently shot by Abin. The sheriff then calls ATF Agent Joseph Keenan (played by John Goodman) for backup. After a shootout erupts and goes awry on the compound, Joseph follows his bosses’ orders to kill all witnesses, in an effort to keep the reputation of the ATF intact.
The action horror thriller once again shows Smith’s great satirical take on the important issues plaguing America today. Even though the Five Points Church is only half an hour away from the Bible Belt town Travis, Jared and Billy Ray live in, both sides have completely different views on morals and ethics, particularly in terms of sexuality. The writer-director wasn’t afraid to patronize the radical beliefs of the church, showing Abin’s followers as a closed-minded family that chooses not to accept people as they are, no matter whom they love.
Travis, Jared and Billy Ray and the rest of their town, however, look down on the old-fashioned views of Abin and his congregation. They support and like people for who they are, and don’t discriminate against anyone based on their sexual preference. ‘Red State’ successfully shows the disconnect amongst neighbors because of their religious beliefs, and the lengths people will go to in order to protect their views.
Smith made the right decision to showcase the course of events from the viewpoints of Travis and his friends, Abin and the Five Points Church and the ATF. These different perspectives give viewers an insight into the motives and beliefs of all the characters. This approach allows the audience to form their own opinions of the characters that have such different outlooks on life.
The DVD features heavy insight into the making of ‘Red State,’ which not only stirred up controversy when the congregation of the Westboro Baptist Church alleged the film was based on them, but also when Smith announced he would auction off the rights to a distributor after its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival. After the screening, the director announced that he decided to independently distribute the movie himself.
The more notable DVD extras include “The Sundance Speech With Introduction By Kevin Smith,” which features the filmmaker’s speech at the film festival. During the speech, he explains some of the ideas behind the film and the more controversial aspects, including why he ultimately decided to distribute it himself. “The Making of ‘Red State,’” which includes interviews with Smith and most of the core cast members and footage shot on set during production, is another intriguing bonus feature.
While ‘Red State’ has drawn criticism for its provocative subject matter and Smith’s controversial approach on distribution, the horror film does interestingly showcase the divide of neighbors, based on their religious beliefs and lifestyle choices. The movie effectively allows viewers to examine the mindset of a diverse group of people, and how they interact with each other once their lifestyle choices are put to the test.