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Indiana Goes Red

How have you been? I’ve been well, thanks. After quite an absence for a multitude of reasons, (including surgery and the lack of new releases that I want to see) I have returned with a special review. This weekend I had the opportunity to enjoy a screening and Q&A session by The Clerks Guy, the “S” in SModcast, Mr. (formerly) too-fat-to-fly himself, Kevin Smith. First off, let me say that I do not want to do Red State a disservice, so I will not be providing too many details of the film. I will say that if you enjoy horror and psychological thrillers with some action, go see Red State upon its wide release in October.

If you are a regular listener to SModcast, there will be very little new information here. If you have not followed how this film has developed, I find it completely fascinating. Rather than sell the film to a distributor, Smith is releasing Red State under the SModcast banner. Why? Because Red State is a little $4 million independent film, and Smith is aware of the historical box office limitations of his films. Rather than allow a distributor to spend multiples of the cost of the film on an advertising campaign, Smith is calling on his audience to spend some extra cash, come to an early screening with a Q&A, and then spread the word in anticipation of the wide release.

I understand that people have varying opinions of Smith, his work and the way he is releasing this film. To me, Smith has identified the strength of his audience and his draw as an entertainer, and has harnessed this using his podcast network to pay for part of the film prior to its release. For all of the crap (that’s the industry term) Smith has taken for his distribution method and the false auction at Sundance, I believe it was a very smart move. Yes, it goes against the Hollywood norm, but it opens the doors for other independent filmmakers to avoid the big studios and release a truly independent film. In a time where all marketing strategies are changing, Smith is taking a calculated risk on a smaller film and it has the potential to change the film industry. I’m not oblivious enough to think that this will change the industry by itself, but it is a step toward potential change.

With the announcement that Red State would be Smith’s next to last film, aside from the audible gasp from Smith fanboys (myself included) I worry that people are already dismissing Red State and looking forward to Hit Somebody and beyond. Let’s focus, and then we can talk about the future.

Red State

Red State is being marketed as a horror film and for many that description will fit. To those that like to sub-categorize until every film has its own genre, you will disagree and possibly call it a psychological thriller or action flick. I’m comfortable with the horror label.

Red State
begins with the introduction of three high school teens on a mission to get laid. Meanwhile, we see the Five Points Trinity Church, a Westboro-Baptist-like church whose members are protesting a funeral.

The three teens get mixed up with Five Points Trinity with uncomfortable results. Uncomfortable is the best word I can use, because everything about this film is uncomfortable. The atmosphere set shows Smith’s growth as a filmmaker, and choices such as the lack of score help some of the reveals and unexpected events hit hard. In fact, there are at least three moments that sucked the air out of the room. Smith knows his audience so well, that after one, we were laughing no more than twenty seconds later.

The three teens deliver believable performances; the younger stand-outs are Kyle Gallner and Keri Bische.  Michael Parks is, as always, outstanding, as is John Goodman, and these two performances alone make it hard to believe that this film was as cheap, relatively, as it was.

Go see this in October, if for no other reason than to support a truly independent film. For the fans of the Smith comedies, Red State is like nothing he has made before. I also encourage you not to seek out plot information or spoiler-filled reviews. Going in “blind” helps the potential impact of this film.

How much would I pay to see it again? Out of $10, I would pay $10, but keep in mind that I’m a Smith fan.

Jay Fralick is the co-host of the Wanna Watch a Movie? Podcast

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  1. John Couture says:

    Jay and/or Katie,

    I’m John Couture and provided Kevin with his intro at #SMindy. I know it’s been months, but as you both were front row, I was wondering if you happened to catch a picture of Kevin and I when we passed the microphone?

    I know it’s a long shot, but my wife and I conceived that night (baby girl due in December) and I’m trying to find a decent shot from that moment. My wife was bumped as she took the shot.

    Anyhow, you can reach me at [email protected].


  2. Childe Jake says:

    Thank you for mentioning the absence of a score for Red State. I haven’t seen any other reviews mention that. Kevin talked about that a little at the Ann Arbor, Michigan screening. I think it’s a great example of the compelling choices he made at various points in this movie. He really lets the actors tell the story–very strong cast that they are. And while I love film scores in general, the judicious use of music in this film was excellent.

  3. my_leisure says:

    I bought 4 tickets to the Seattle show right when they went available. I’m really excited and this is the 3rd time I’ll have seen Smith Live.

  4. @Alex – small world! 🙂

    @ all the #SMindy people: we should have had a tweetup!

    I absolutely LOVED the movie. Not what I expected at all. So proud of Kevin and his passion for his craft. I really enjoyed the Q&A afterwards and I must admit, being in the front row was pretty damned cool. Kevin seemed really down to earth and I bet would have stayed for hours and hours if it was possible.

    I cannot wait to see this flick again. Michael Parks and John Goodman should be recognized for their fantastic performances. Creepy-ass movie.

    And let me just say…the “noise” haunts my dreams. Even with the explanation, it still creeps me out. To go from no score – to THAT – well done, sir.

    Great review as always, @JayFralick! (and no, I’m not biased.)

  5. Joe W says:

    I was also at the DC show last night (#SMapital) and as for kevin dipping into “horror” this is more of a real world face horror because when you think horror you think psychopath and nightmares. Micheal Parks was down right CREEPY and on point. Goodman was great all around the movie was amazing like everyone else is saying nothing like kevin has done before but exactly what everyone wanted to see out of him. for the budget he spent on it he has made his money back 10 fold doing what he calls indie 2.0 at 65 bucks a ticket. the warner theathre was PACKED! ( I was downstairs ). side note I chuckled at one point cause the couple next to me and my gf LEFT I hope it was the same reason why the phelps left during the KC show. btw kevin I would of paid more ( 3 digits) to see this movie again.

  6. Joe J says:

    I was at the SMindy show on the 11th. I’ve listened to all the Red State of the Union pods, so I was eagerly waiting to see the flick. It did not dissapoint. Nothing like what Kevin has done before. I’m going nuts thinking about how I can see it again BEFORE October 19th. Hopefully the rumored summer tour will be my chance.

  7. branden b. says:

    He ran through Springfield, OH two days age and I missed it =(
    I’ve heard great things though, so I’m definitely seeing it when its released in October.

  8. Mandy W. says:

    Just saw the flick last night in DC. In a word the movie is awesome. It did not disappoint. I encourage fans of Smith, horror & gore to go see this film. I agree with Jay on the standout performances, truly riveting.

  9. Mandy W. says:

    Just saw the flick last night in DC. In a word the movie is awesome. It did not disapoint. I encourage fans of Smith, horror & gore to go see this film. I agree with Jay on the stand out performances, truly riveting.

  10. natew says:

    I am excited to see the flick, and I hope I don’t come off as too churlish; but the point of sub-categorizing a film is to try and better identify its place within a genre. For instance, “Audition” by Takashi Miike, could loosely be called a horror film, but someone whose exposure to horror is limited to slasher films will be sorely disappointed; or consider another Japanese great, “Uzumaki,” a perfect example of the proverbial ‘un-categorizable’ film (such that sub-categorizing becomes essential to even trying to identify a genre.)
    Calling a film psychological thriller is not excessive sub-categorizing (arguably is doesn’t mean much when every Liam Neeson action-pile-o-shit gets called that) – I do agree with your premise that over sub-categorizing can sometimes get a little ridiculous. However, if I had never seen “Blade Runner,” and I was told it was a ‘moody, dark, dystopian robot sci-fi film’ I would have a much better idea of where the film is within the science fiction genre rather than if I was simply it’s a sci-fi movie. (God forbid I watch “I, Robot” instead.) I realize you didn’t say you don’t agree with sub-categorizing, just that you were “comfortable” with the horror label. For someone who is a film person, like yourself, I thought you would want to better identify “Red State” within the genre of horror. Again, from the trailer anyway, if my only exposure to horror was Eli Roth, and his gore-porn ilk, I am not sure I would enjoy this film.

  11. Jeremy says:

    I saw it in Minnesota. Dope flick. I was bummed that the Q and A was only 1 1/2 hrs. I could have easily sat through twice that after the film. I also agree with the review. Just know you’re seeing a low budget flick and go in blind. You will be blown away.

  12. Sean says:

    Didn’t realize there was so many Nerdist fans at the Indy show! I was there as well. Absolutely loved the film. I immediately wanted it to start over again after it finished.

  13. Alex Dantin says:

    I too was at the Indianapolis (ne #SMindy) show. Apparently Mr. Fralick’s wife shared a movie moment with mine as they both screamed (like girls) at one particular moment.

    I’ve posted a full review here

    To particularly focus on Smith and the tour aspect of Red State, people seem to think he has someone gone off his rocker in some kind of late-career burnout – a notion not particularly helped by his sudden emergence as a real stoner (instead of just playing one in the movies). Be that as it may – as consumers we’ve come to expect teasers a year in advance of unoriginal, derivative and “safe” Hollywood films. We wait for plot filled trailers, endless billboards and posters, and an endless parade of press and talkshow appearances with talent two projects removed from the film they’re promoting.

    Why then is everyone all up in Smith’s nuts because he’s doing the job all on his own? And he’s doing it more honestly and directly than 90% of the rest of Hollywood that relies on “the machine” to do the work for them.

    I believe Jim Cameron’s ebullience when he shows up on Attack of the Show to huck his camera and wax poetic about his projects. I believe Tim Burton when he waves his hands with his bad hair in interview after interview. So why is the internet culture that has cried for access, originality, and authenticity from Hollywood and the creative elite so quick to assault someone doing just that?

  14. smartbunny says:

    Son of a crapshack. I forgot to see this when it was in NYC. Looking WAY forward to it though.