Kevin Smith is a good filmmaker. I just watched Red State (2011) and as ambitious movies go that deal with right wing religious/politics, homeland security and the impact on due process, and then the smaller themes of self hatred, self righteousness, repression and oh, yeah all wrapped into a horror movie model, then this movie hits the mark. (Sorry about the long sentence.)
I short changed Kevin Smith as a filmmaker a long time ago. I thought Clerks (1994) was okay. Not great. I didn’t really like Mallrats (1995) or Chasing Amy (1997). I liked most of Dogma (1999). I always liked him, though. I think he is funny and affable and smart. I read John Pierson’s book Mike, Spike and Reloaded (2004), a producer’s take on the 1990s decade of independent filmmaking. And I like where Kevin Smith came from and what he achieved. I just didn’t fit all the pieces together until I watched Red State on demand last week. That’s how I am, though. It sometimes takes a long time for me to be in on the latest craze. This one took me twenty years but I am a believer now. This guy can make movies.
Red State is terrifying and shot like a horror movie. It involves a cult of way, way righties and torture victims encased in Saran Wrap. Wow, heavy stuff. It is great seeing Michael Parks in a new movie. I haven’t seen Michael Parks in a movie since the 1980s. He was always so intense yet still understated. In this film his character is way broad and over-the-top. He nails it. Melissa Leo, current darling of the independent scene, is absolutely scary and dead on as a hate-filled creep. I remember Leo from the TV show, Homicide, and always thought in another time she would be a star. And now she is! How cool.
So, to sum up I was wrong about Kevin Smith which makes me think I might actually be wrong about other things. Thanks Kevin Smith!
Note to self – I need to re-visit 1990’s movies in general. I know I can stay away from the junkie, soul-less movies. Is that really filmmaking or is it just being really, really bleak and hoping people see it as art? There I go again! What if I’m wrong about those, too? I am feeling ambivalent now about any criticism I have held from that decade. Maybe bleak junkie movies are where it’s at. I doubt it, but I have made some mistakes so I’ll keep an open mind. Maybe I’ll watch High Art (1998) again. It does have Patricia Clarkson.