Kevin Smith’s Red State

Red State takes place in Kansas, in and around the (fictional) town of Cooper’s Dell, home of Abin Cooper: a religious leader who preaches the word of the Lord in fire, brimstone and bullets. When the church captures three more victims for its murderous services, they set off an investigation that gets messier and deadlier at every turn. Fearing the implications of any press reports made by survivors, the FBI agent in charge at the scene, played with superb gravitas by John Goodman, is ordered to use deadly force.

Kevin Smith has made plenty of films, but he’s never done anything like this. Unlike his clever comedies, Red State is a dark thriller that may leave you wondering who to root for. The film made headlines with its release for a number of reasons.

Firstly, because it’s such a departure. Only one element gives it away as a Kevin Smith movie, and that’s his signature prowess with dialogue – everything else is unfamiliar territory. Smith made it easier for longtime fans to follow him into terra incognita by providing real-time insight into the film-making process for free via his Red State of the Union podcasts available on his website,
Secondly, it struck a nerve. Life appeared to be imitating art when Smith’s inspiration, the Westboro Baptist Church, protested the film’s opening at Sundance and subsequent showings in Kansas City. What’s more, Smith had the opportunity to interview two former members of the WBC, who shared which details within the film were the most realistic, including Michael Parks’ performance as Abin Cooper. “That was just surreal…. That is my grandfather [Fred Phelps] to a T” (beginning at min 17:40).
Finally, the director distributed the film himself rather than going through a conventional studio, which, if successful, could prove to be a game-changer in the world of indie film. Relying primarily on a “word of mouth/viral campaign,” the goal, according to the Red Statement, is to “…BECOME the studio. Anybody can make a movie; what we aim to prove is anyone can release a movie as well.”

If it seems like Kevin Smith has come a long way from being the guy who created Jay and Silent Bob, Red State still feels like it was made by the same guy who gave us Clerks. It’s a film that was created out of passion for the story rather than market research and the story of its success should be of interest to independent filmmakers everywhere.

For more information on Red State, visit

People also view

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *