I saw Kevin Smith do a Q&A at the 2010 Just for Laughs Festival, and he was super psyched for this little indie horror film he was making called Red State. Being a Smith fan and a horror film, I was pretty intrigued. Red State showed up on my radar early, and I followed it closely for the past year or so. Pretty easy to do with all the Red State related info that Smith has been churning out the past 12 months.

Oh yeah, as I tweeted last night (I need to update that profile), Smith announced in Montreal that Hit Somebody will actually be a two part film (notice how my tweet predates Cinema Blend’s article by 13 hours?). Not sure what the market is for two-part hockey films (other than Canada) but I’m excited and I’m pretty sure Smith doesn’t give a shit about the market anymore either.

After publicly feuding with the Phelps family (with the Phelps family chanting God Hates America and a pack of high school kids singing Lady Gaga lyrics back at them, Smith’s reaction? “It was fucked.”), a circus at Sundance, then taking the show on the road like an old timey movie with only one print, Smith’s flick finally rolled into Canada. Sort of, it actually screened at Fantasia a few weeks ago, but, other than a few minute video intro, Smith himself was absent from the premiere. Last night, he officially kicked off his Red State Red Province tour in Montreal. I missed the show at Fantasia for various reasons, so this was my first chance to watch the movie. Smith did a sweet little intro playing up to his Canadian audience (Smith loves Canada), referring to us as the Girl Next Door who he always wants to impress. Cute.

This is the spoiler free version of the review, so I won’t really be talking about any plot points or anything. I get all spoileriffic over here if you’ve either seen the movie or don’t care if I ruin it for you. To have the full experience you should probably read both but I don’t want to ruin the movie for anyone so just leave me alone and stop bothering me.

First impression of the movie? It’s not a horror film. Does it have jumpy moments? Scary moments? Unsettling sequences? Yes on all counts. It’s still not a horror movie, more of a suspense/thriller type movie.

While watching the film, I got the impression that this movie would be a lot like the film Smith, Tarantino and the Coen brothers would make if they only had $4 million dollars. The fact that Smith made this movie with only $4 million dollars without Tarantino and the Coen brothers is actually pretty amazing.

After the flick, Smith stated that even though his comfort zone is comedy, none of his favourite films are comedies: he loves movies like JFK and The Last Temptation of Christ. As he started thinking about winding down his career, he wanted to make an “adult movie” (his words) before he was done. Smith admitted that he wanted to go out with a bang not a whimper, and I think Red State is a step in the right direction. I’ve been pumped for Hit Somebody for a while (I’m a sucker for a good hockey story) and after Red State I’m even more so.

He talked about being perfectly willing to accept that his movies have an “audience ceiling”. That only a finite number of people will go see Kevin Smith movies and that trying to market them to other demographics is just a big waste of money. I can buy that. Smith movies just aren’t made for my mom.

Red State isn’t afraid to break the “rules”, does not follow normal story structure and Kevin Smith goes out of his way to make sure that nobody in the cast is safe. Having seen hundreds of horror/thriller flicks, I like being kept on my toes with breaks from convention.

Kevin Smith is a wordy motherfucker, both in real life and in his flicks. That would probably be my only beef with Red State, occasionally a character will break off into an extended monologue (once in particular) that sort of breaks up the pacing of the film.

I’m sure the intention was to increase the tension with this long drawn out discourse, but I felt that sometimes this dragged on so long that I was sort of pulled out of the story and just wanted it to move forward. Maybe it’s just because I have ADD. This only happened once or twice though, and once it was a pretty inspiring performance by Michael Parks, so I think we’re still good Kevin Smith. We good.

Speaking of Michael Parks, Smith told the audience that he wanted to write something for Parks ever since he saw him in From Dusk Til Dawn, but never had the script for him. In a lovely bit of praise for Parks, he described Parks acting ability like getting blowjobs your whole life then finally getting a blowjob from a pro and cumming like you never have before. Kevin Smith.

Smith makes a lot of cool choices in the film, one of my favourites is the fact that there is no score. There’s some incidental music here and there but no formal score. Smith commented that a score tells the viewer what to think and I agree with him. The lack of score makes the storytelling much edgier. When I’m being chased by religious fanatics, there’s rarely suspenseful chase music playing.

Red State is pretty linear, it starts in the morning and ends the following morning and just plays out chronologically. It twists pretty often (not in an M. Night way, but in an interesting way) so you’re always paying attention. Red State characters seem to just constantly make the worst decision possible (not always the wrong decision, either logically or morally, however they all seem to ultimately make bad choices). It’s fun, in a movie where all bets are off, if a character fucks up, he’s gonna get it. Like Game of Thrones.

The dialogue is all straight up Kevin Smith, laced with profanity and some legitimately funny bits, the comedy doesn’t fuck around with the uneasiness of the film though. Actually, it sort of contributes to it in a weird way. Humour in fucked up situations just makes it more fucked up right?

The credits rolled, Smith did his Q&A, rambled for 30 minutes before taking the first Q (he blamed the Montreal pot he smoked beforehand). His fans kissed his ass a little bit, and an hour and a half later he was done. The guy could talk for 3 or 4 hours easily, 90 minutes somehow felt a little rushed.

So yeah, Red State. Way better than you probably expect, a little sad that Smith only got to this place right at the end of his career, I would like to see more stuff from him outside of his comfort zone. I’ll just have to hope he makes an amazing hockey epic with Hit Somebody.

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