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Sunday Scaries: The Supreme Court is a Horror Show and Conservative Hatred Has Me Thinking About Kevin Smith’s ‘Red State’

The Sunday Scaries are upon us once again! Yes, as the weekend concludes, most of us feel an oncoming sense of anticipatory dread about the week ahead. Anxiety about work manifests itself into a feeling that’s known as the Sunday Scaries. However, we at Awards Radar are here to combat that, by taking back the name. Now, we want you think about a horror-centric piece on the site when you hear the term. So, let us continue on with another installment of the Awards Radar Sunday Scaries! Today, I’m returning to a film I’ve previously spoken about, in light of some recent real world events…

Red State

The Supreme Court sucks right now. Maybe it always did, but this current conservative leaning (and that’s putting it mildly) court has rolled back so many rights and protections recently that you can’t help but feel like evil is at play. Of course, those making the decisions are doing so based on money and religion, in addition to hatred and ignorance, but the result is still the same. Abortion, LGBTQ rights, even the ability for the poor to have student loan relief, it’s all been on the chopping block. Contraceptives are next, too, as the war on women continues and Christian fundamentalism somehow becomes the norm. While thinking of how extreme and how much worse it could get, a certain title from a favorite filmmaker of mine was rattling around in my mind.

The movie I thought of was, of course, Kevin Smith‘s Red State. Now, as you’ll see below, I wrote about its qualities as a film as few years ago. Today, I’m thinking about the analogy. In the flick, Smith has the fundamentalists going one step further and actually murdering, but somehow the agenda of the group in this work more closely resembles what we’re seeing in real life than ever. Hatred runs rampant, the government doesn’t seem to have much they can do, and it all will eventually lead to more and more tragedy.

Here is some of what I wrote about Red State in a prior Sunday Scaries piece two years ago:

Smith’s first true genre offering (give or take going the full romantic dramedy route previously, as opposed to straight comedies) is as much a thriller as it is horror, but the scares are there. Frankly, they’re scary because of how based in reality they are. The story of a group of horny teenagers stumbling upon a religious cult with a deadly agenda, before getting trapped between them and overzealous government agents, is something you’d sooner expect from the Coen Brothers than Smith. That’s part of its genius, too. As you’ll see below, this is an underrated flick, as well as one of the best Smith has ever made. Consider this as much as anything a yearning for more people to check it out.

Red State

Red State came about in an unusual way. Made independently after The Weinstein Company passed (reportedly, Harvey Weinstein saw it as a Dimension project for Bob Weinstein, while Bob saw it more as an indie for Harvey to handle), Smith also utilized the marketing tools he learned while working on Cop Out at Warner Bros. Debuting at the Sundance Film Festival, Smith shocked many when, after a fairly positive reception, he sold the movie to himself. Unfortunately, this stunt sort of poisoned the well when it came to the flick. Instead of being judged on its own terms, it was a means for pundits to pick on a filmmaker they were annoyed at. That’s a shame, too, since this is supremely well-crafted cinema, and I’m not just saying it as a Kevin Smith fan. This is just sharp storytelling, through and through.

The film is one of Smith’s smartest, as well as his most nihilistic. You don’t expect the Clerks guy to make something bleak, but he’s effectively channeling the mood of the country at the time, even if he somewhat dismissed any overt political statements. Plus, it features some of his best directed performances. Michael Parks rightly was seen as an Oscar snub by Smith for his turn as Pastor Abin Cooper, as he’s a master at work. However, John Goodman is just as good and sadly ignored by the Academy as well. His ATF Agent Joseph Keenan also gets an incredible monologue at the very end. His final line stays with you, summarizing the movie in a way that you want to stand up and applaud.

Smith does a great job of subverting expectations. The body count is unexpected, with several deaths being genuine shocks. The plot takes a number of turns, as if Smith makes sure that whenever you think you know where the film is going, he flips it on its axis. The cleverness of the work never seems showy, either. It’s just a project that’s about to do a lot, both with limited time and money, but also with a very tightly focused premise.

Red State

Horror-wise, Red State is more unsettling than scary, but it’s undeniably at least adjacent to the genre. It’s not a fright flick that will leave you quaking in your boots, but knowing that the Five Points Church is only one step more extreme than the Westboro Baptist Church is incredibly disturbing. Moreover, it was Smith dipping his toes in the horror genre. The movies to come from him would go deeper down the rabbit hole of terror, so it’s an important landmark of his career, too.

Just to wrap up, remember that these viewpoints, just like in the movie, are held by a minority of individuals. Most people want fundamental civil and human rights for those who look and love differently than they do. Most people want better for others, regardless of if that exact thing is what they want for themselves. Abortion, contraception, voting rights, we’re getting less of it all, not more. It’s going to make America worse off, that’s for sure. Watching Red State, I still saw an entertaining genre film, but I also saw a biting take on what’s actually happening around us, in the Supreme Court, as well as potentially on the ballot next year…

Stay tuned for another installment of the Sunday Scaries next week!


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Robert Hamer
5 months ago

You want something truly horrifying to look forward to with the Supreme Court? They’ve agreed to take up a case next year that could overturn every state law barring domestic abusers under protective orders from purchasing firearms.

The second half of the 2020’s has a very real likelihood of experiencing an explosion of women being murdered, and homicide is already the #1 killer of pregnant women in the United States.


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Written by Joey Magidson

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