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Film: Red State

"Fear God? You better believe I fear God."
Abin Cooper

Writer/director Kevin Smith's first foray into horror. After the disappointment of his last big studio film Cop Out, Smith decided to finally shoot the script he had written years ago during the shooting of Zack and Miri Make a Porno for the smallest budget he's had since Chasing Amy. Stars a few familiar faces and features a few more heavy weight issues than Smith's previous work.

The film starts with three teens attempting to procure sex from a woman who lives in the outskirts of their Southern town. Things don't result in quite that much sex, however, as the boys end up being kidnapped by Five Points Trinity Church, the local extremely fundamentalist Christian church, situated in nearby Cooper's Dell. From there, it's all bloodshed, artillery and some transitions between the characters it focuses on.

This work features examples of:

  • Affably Evil: Abin Cooper is a kindly patriarch and preacher when he's not murdering sodomites and other sinners. His grandfatherly personality makes him all the more sinister.
  • Anyone Can Die: All three of the initial protagonists, and Cooper's sympathetic daughter Cheyenne.
  • Blackmail: Cooper tells the closeted gay sheriff not to send any backup or he'll send certain unwholesome pictures to his wife. He ends up taking a third option by calling in the ATF.
  • All Gays Are Promiscuous: The Five Points Trinity Church seems to hold this belief with the way Cooper preaches about them.
  • All Men Are Perverts: This is what gets the main trio into trouble in the first place.
  • Badass Preacher: Pastor Abin Cooper, also a Sinister Minister who executes 'sinners' and 'sodomites', is a trained domestic terrorist. He joins the rest of his church during their shoot-out with the ATF, firing an assault rifle at the agents to hold off the prolongued siege.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Sure, every member of the Five Points Trinity Church is arrested or killed, but the main trio are all dead as well as Cheyenne, the only redeemable Cooper family member.
  • Black And Black Morality: Sure, what the Five Points Trinity Church is doing is sure as hell wrong and immoral, but deciding to execute every last one of them, including the children, just to save face is a really screwed-up thing to do on the ATF's part.
  • Boom, Headshot: Cooper manages to pull this on Agent Brooks. Doubles as an Eye Scream too!
  • Bullet Holes and Revelations: Happens between Sarah and her daughter Cheyenne. Sarah loses.
  • Church Militant: A whole (inbred) family of them!
  • Corrupt Church: The Five Points Trinity Church, of course.
  • Crazy-Prepared: The Five Points Trinity Church is this to an extent. After some people set off an IED in their yard, they build a wall around their church (AKA "The Great Wall of Bullshit"), set up security cameras on their property as well as a electric locking gate (although, it is waist high) and stock up on high-powered guns which they have modified to be automatic. Also, they don't allow anybody but family members in their church.
  • Creator Cameo: Pretty hard to catch on the first viewing, but Smith is the voice of the off-camera prisoner who tells Cooper "Shut the fuck up!" as he rambles in his cell.
  • Cruel Mercy: At the end of the film, Keenan's superiors point out that they don't have to kill Cooper to keep him quiet. Instead they'll lock him away in a federal prison forever under the pretext of terrorism, where there is a high chance he'll be raped by the homosexuals he despises so much.
  • Cult Colony: The Coopers' farmstead turned into this, and their aggressive bigotry drove all their neighbors out of the valley.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Kevin Pollak's ATF Agent Brooks.
  • Foreshadowing: The class discussion is pretty much all foreshadowing, especially the ending snippet...
    Teacher: And what is the Second Amendment?
    Student: (in a very pleased tone) We get guns...
    • As well as when the main trio is talking about how one of the women on the website they're looking at is located in Cooper's Dell. Guess where the Five Points Trinity Church is located?
  • Decoy Protagonist: We barely find out anything about Billy Ray, Travis and Jarod except that they would have sex even with unknown women. The real protagonist turns out to be Joseph Keenan or Abin Cooper.
  • Developing Doomed Characters: Exactly 13 minutes, 12 seconds before the horror starts. Most of it is getting to the incident, and establishing the sheriff and Cooper.
  • Dumb Muscle: Billy Ray is a head taller than his friends and is the dimmest of the three.
  • Easter Egg: Five Points Trinity, hunh? More like Five Part Trilogy.
  • Elegant Weapon for a More Civilized Age: While everyone else in the Five Points Trinity Church uses some kind of modern assault rifle, Cooper (who's clearly older than almost every other member) sticks with a nice bolt action hunting rifle.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Aside from their homicidal religious extremism, the Coopers are just one big, happy Southern family, and Cheyenne risks her life trying to get the little ones to safety.
  • Evil vs. Evil: The Five Points Trinity Church is killing gays and promiscuous teens out of religious mania. Then the ATF shows up, decides they are all terrorists and decides to murder every single parishioner, including the children.
  • Expy: Subverted. Initially, it seems like the Five Points Church is an Expy for the Westboro Baptist Church, but close to the end of the movie, the actual WBC is mentioned as a way of emphasizing exactly how dangerous Five Points is.
    Agent Keenan: [on the phone] "No, that's the Westboro Baptist Church. You know, 'God Hates Fags'? They're suers, not doers."
  • The Fundamentalist: The congregation of the Five Points Trinity Church, played for horror.
  • Genre Shift: This movie has it in spades. It goes from a raunchy comedy, to a Hostel-style thriller, to a hostage/siege-type movie with a bit of action/shoot-em-up thrown in.
  • Give Me a Sign: Played straight, then subverted and lampshaded.
  • A Good Way to Die: Cooper certainly believes dying fighting government enforcers (of a government willing to tolerate homosexuals) is one, and he has most of his family convinced of that too.
  • Halfway Plot Switch: Goes with the Genre Shift, obviously. The first half of the movie is about Travis, Jared and Billy Ray trying to flee from the Coopers' compound. Then Travis gets shot by the Sheriff. The second half of the movie is about Agent Keenan's team and the Coopers firing at each other, with Jared and Cheyenne caught in the middle.
  • The Heretic: How actual Real Life Christians view the hate-spewing Coopers.
  • Honey Trap: The members of the Five Points Trinity church use this method (primarily via internet personals) to draw in "perverts" for them to purge.
  • Hope Spot: When Travis makes his daring escape, he manages to make it out and you really think he's going to get away... only for him to get shot by the sheriff who has joined the ATF who have surrounded the church.
  • Idiot Ball: When the deputy hears the shots fired from inside the church, he makes no effort to take cover while calling in backup, despite having plenty of time to do so.
  • Infant Immortality: Although Keenan's superiors wish to avert this, Cheyenne's actions (combined with a lot of dumb luck) manage to play it straight. As long as you don't count the main trio and Cheyenne dying...
  • Irony as She Is Cast: LA radio DJ Ralph Garmin plays a mute.
  • Just Following Orders: Agent Hammond uses this throughout the movie, after the order is given, to guilt Keenan into going against it.
  • Kicked Upstairs: Agent Keenan, to D.C.
  • Moe Greene Special: Happens to Agent Brooks.
  • Moral Myopia: Cooper spells right out that he believes that the Biblical prohibition "thou shalt not kill" applies only to other members of the faith. However, no one outside his extended family is "faithful" enough for his standards.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: The cult compound, violence and the actions of the ATF are similar to David Koresh and the Branch Dividian Compound tragedy from the early 90's.
  • Noodle Incident: Keenan and his subordinates talk about how last time the ATF had not as much luck during a similar incident and the FBI had to relieve them. They are, of course, talking about the Waco siege, even though it's not mentioned by name or situation.
  • Not What It Looks Like: A rather interesting example. Sarah walks in just as Jared grabs Cheyenne, which makes it appear that he's trying to wrestle the gun away from her. In reality, he's just trying to taunt her into killing him because he just doesn't care anymore.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: Agent Kennan describes subduing Cooper with a headbutt, which we tragically do not get to see.
  • Only a Flesh Wound: Keenan (John Goodman) has some shrapnel skull fragments tear into his thigh, but it doesn't give him more than the faintest limp.
  • The Patriarch: Cooper is a villainous example of this archetype.
  • Police Are Useless: The local sheriff's office is incompetent. The ATF is corrupt.
  • Police Brutality: The ATF decides to cover up the Sheriff's accidental shooting by killing everyone in the house.
  • Prank Date: The "malicious trap" variety, which sets up the events of the movie.
  • Religion of Evil: The Five Points Trinity Church.
  • Religious Horror: The Five Points Trinity Church members are partly inspired by Fred Phelps and his flock, though they go him one better and lure "sinners" over the Internet and kill them.
  • Right Wing Militia Fanatic: The Coopers, overlapping with Church Militant, above. So far to the right, in fact, that even the neo-Nazis think they're "nucking futs."
  • Ripped from the Headlines: Cooper is sort of a mix of Fred Phelps and David Koresh; the climax explicitly recalls the Waco siege at the Branch Davidian compound.
  • Sinister Minister: Cooper, who also has a Beard of Evil, plays this trope to the hilt.
  • Suicide by Cop: The Five Points Trinity Church seems pretty damned determined to pull this off once their cover as a "peaceful, but angry and Protestant church" is blown and most of them are pretty successful.
  • The Voiceless: Caleb never speaks. He's portrayed ironically by Ralph Garmin, a radio DJ.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: We never do find out if the young children make it out of the attic alive or are shot up by the ATF.
  • Your Cheating Heart: Regardless of one's view of homosexuality, the sheriff is cheating on his wife, and is physically displaying signs of being tormented by guilt over it.

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alternative title(s): Red State
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