Inside Kevin Smith's RED STATE 'Blogger Screening'
Inside the RED STATE Blogger Screening
Red State is nothing like any of Kevin Smith’s other films. If someone saw the movie without previous knowledge of his involvement, they’d likely be just as shocked upon seeing his name on the closing credits as I was the day I discovered Francis Ford Coppola directed Jack.
I got the opportunity to see the movie on Friday, Jan. 28 as part of Smith’s “blogger screening” in Los Angeles that he set up a few weeks ago, giving the online press a chance to view the movie shortly after its debut at Sundance. The screening was seemingly motivated, at least in part, by charges that Smith was anti-press following his declaration that he wouldn’t be doing any junkets for the film.
Originally, the screening was intended to be at Smith's house, which has obvious appeal to a dude who had his mind relatively blown by a slumber party viewing of Mallrats in junior high. At some point it got moved to a post-production facility in Hollywood, which had one of the nicest digital screens I’ve seen, so it all worked out. (Plus, free candy and soda!)
Red State has long been purported to be a horror film, and it’s easy to imagine what a written-and-directed by Kevin Smith horror film might be like — self-aware; full of sex jokes, wacky pop culture references and goofy death scenes. Like Scream with vivid talk of obscure sexual maneuvers.
This has absolutely none of that. Smith plays Red State completely straight, with only a couple of brief moments of levity in the beginning and the end. Other than a central concept focusing on the issue of religious hypocrisy, which he explored to an extent in Dogma, and a touch of crude sexual talk as seen in everything else he’s done to this point, it’s something totally new from Smith, which is exciting to see. (That’s right — not one Star Wars reference in the entire film.)
Michael Parks, in the lead role as the Fred Phelps-esque (though not Fred Phelps, as the script rather carefully points out) maniacal preacher Abin Cooper, is as good as you’ve heard — disarmingly creepy with just enough unctuous charm to make you understand why he would have such loyal followers. Kerry Bishé, best known as the point-of-view character in the mostly Zach Braff-less final season of Scrubs, also stands out as the only member of the Cooper family remotely capable of thinking for herself.
All that makes Smith’s recent proclamation that his next movie, Hit Somebody, will be his last — something he reiterated in Friday's Q&A — disappointing. Now that he’s finally worked outside of the crude-yet-sentimental comedies that have been his calling card since 1994’s Clerks, it’s a bummer that we won’t really be able to see where that move might lead.