Red State (2011)
Directed by Kevin Smith

Starring John Goodman Kyle Gallner Michael Parks

Clearly inspired by redneck-survival horror films of the past 10 years, such as "Wolf Creek" and Rob Zombie's "The Devil's Rejects", "Red State" is also about a homicidal southern family -- only this time the family in question aren't satanists, but rather warped bible thumbers who kidnap gays and horny teens and sacrifice them during all-night church services.

Led by pastor Abin Cooper (played amazingly well by Michael Parks), the fictional cult is clearly based somewhat on a number of real-life militant, anti-gay Christian groups -- but with a more homicidal edge.

The film opens as many horror movies do, with a group of high school kids -- in this case three guys -- sitting around talking about how ready they are to party. After finding a personal ad from a woman who claims she wants three guys at one, they drive her trailer to party down -- only to find that the middle aged woman has drugged them.

They wake up caged in Abin Cooper's white trash church, where services are being held, and watch in horror as another kidnap victim is dispatched on a crucifix as punishment for homosexuality. Long sequences featuring Parks reading scripture are the scariest moments of this violent film -- and capture some of the most politically incorrect verses in the Bible that appear to justify the cult's homicidal ways.

As the plot thickens, things naturally get somewhat out of hand -- and eventually the dreaded Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms is called in to confront the cult in a Branch Davidian-style standoff. A newly thinned down John Goodman plays the ATF leader.

Director Smith is of course known for his indie comedies -- the best of which is probably the anti-Christian "Dogma". This film is especially critical, with Christian villains more despicable than the satanists Rob Zombie conjured up for "House of 1,000 Corpses" and "The Devil's Rejects". You will cheer everytime one of them gets a bullet in the brain -- which happens quite frequently in this story.

Thanks to his experience as a critically acclaimed indie comedy movie-maker, Smith assembled a great cast. Parks is the standout performer here, but Goodman also delivers a very believable characterization of an ATF agent stuck between a killer Christian cult and a government that ultimately may be more evil than the "terrorists" it has targeted for extermination.

One of the best white trash horror films in recent memory, "Red State" deserved a wide release but, alas, in an era where only PG-13 horror can make a dent at the box office, was relegated to a few screenings across the country before heading straight to VOD and Blu-Ray.

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-- Review by Lucius Gore

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