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Film / Red State

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"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 Michael Parks, John Goodman, Melissa Leo, and Stephen Root, 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.
  • 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.
  • Anyone Can Die: All three of the initial protagonists, and Cooper's sympathetic daughter Cheyenne.
  • 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 a lever action rifle at the agents to hold off the prolonged 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-Grey Morality: Keenan and his men are just trying to do their job to take out what is, for all intents and purposes, a terrorist cell and save the hostages. Unfortunately, they have no way of knowing exactly who's a hostage, which means all three of them are gunned down regardless. Even the three boys, while not outwardly cruel, are clearly sleazy.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Elegant Weapon for a More Civilized Age: While everyone else in the Five Points Trinity Church uses some kind of modern assault rifle or submachine gun, Cooper (who's clearly older than almost every other member) sticks with a nice lever action hunting rifle.
  • Entitled Bastard: When Cheyenne begs Jared to help her get the children out, he refuses and points out the hypocrisy of demanding mercy from him when she and her family were happy enough to kill and torture innocent people due to their religious beliefs.
  • 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 Versus 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.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: A couple of the ATF agents mention that Neo-Nazis were disturbed by Cooper’s vile hatred and that they want NOTHING to do with him.
  • Expy Coexistence: 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.
  • 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?
  • 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.
  • Have I Mentioned I Am Heterosexual Today?: After being captured by the FPT Church, the boys scream that they're not gay, assuming that that's the only reason the Church wants to kill them, in the hopes that they'll be let go.
  • The Heretic: How other Christians in the movie 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.
  • Humans Are Bastards: While the police officers are just doing their job, even they decide to kill all members of the church when they assume that they might attack.
  • 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.
  • Improbable Infant Survival: 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...
  • Just Following Orders: Agent Hammond uses this throughout the movie, after the order is given, to guilt Keenan into going against it.
  • Karmic Rape: Joked about at the end of the movie.
    Agent 1: I mean don't get me wrong, Jesus saves.
    Agent 2: But he ain't gonna save Abe Cooper from a fuckload of Prison Rape.
    Agent 1: Daily shtoopings by Coke can cocks. Savour that irony, Joe.
  • Kicked Upstairs: Agent Keenan, to D.C. Though it's clear from his voice that he does not want to be rewarded for what he's done.
  • 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.
  • Only Sane Man: Cheyenne for the church. Harry subverts this for the ATF.
  • Pay Evil unto Evil: At the end of the movie, the two agents interviewing Keenan justify locking the surviving Coopers up forever this way. "Because fuck people like this." "They're animals."
  • 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.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: Well, they do round up anyone and everyone they even assume are homosexual and brutally murder them, but Cooper occasionally prefaces his opinions on women and homosexuals with "I know it's not politically correct to say, but..."
  • 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.
  • Sentenced Without Trial: Using the Patriot Act, the ATF imprison the surviving Cooper's for life without a trial.
  • Shoot the Shaggy Dog: Travis is shot by the sheriff immediately after escaping the compound.
  • Shut Up, Hannibal!: In the last scene, Cooper is pacing around his cell singing and sermonizing to himself until another prisoner (played by Kevin Smith) tells him to "shut the fuck up".
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: Unlike other Kevin Smith films that usually had heart and was usually somewhere in the middle of the scale, Red State is incredibly bleak and uncompromising.
  • 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.
  • Take That!: Towards the Westboro Baptist Church. The plot is more or less "What if the WBC actually hurt people and weren't just annoying?"
  • Token Good Cops: Deputy Pete and Agent Brooks are the only prominent members of the sheriff's department and ATF to never display any kind of Police Brutality while investigating or besieging the Five Points Trinity Church. Unfortunately, both are killed early on and things get worse and worse.
  • 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.
  • Writer on Board: An interesting case. While it's certainly a straight example, Word of God is that Kevin Smith considers Red State's religious and sexual politics to have been a misstep, as they caused viewers to put too much focus on the those aspects rather than taking the film on its own merits. His next attempt at horror, Tusk, has no political influences at all.