Kevin Smith has a lot to answer for. If it wasn’t bad enough that he backed out of his planned Fantasia appearance last month, he’s also claiming the time has nearly come to retire from filmmaking altogether. Tonight, at a screening of his controversial (and penultimate?) oeuvre Red State, Silent Bob’s fans will be expecting to hear some answers.
Knowing Smith, they’ll probably have been worth the wait. The laid-back and fun-loving director of Clerks and Mallrats always has something interesting to say, not only through his films but also via SModcast, a weekly podcast co-hosted by his producing partner Scott Moiser. With State, however, he’s intentionally stepped away from the “Kevin Smith movie” mold to make a horror tale that takes aim at religious fanatics. Reactions have been mixed.
The plot follows three teenage boys (Michael Angarano, Nicholas Braun and Kyle Gallner) who go online looking for a hot date. If that sounds like familiar Kevin Smith fare, rest assured it doesn’t stay that way for long. After driving out to meet their dream girl, the trio end up imprisoned and at the mercy of crazed Pastor Abin Cooper (Michael Parks). Much like Fred Phelps and his infamous Westboro Baptist Church, Cooper’s got a lot of hate towards gays and sinners in general, so he and his congregants (played by Melissa Leo and Kerry Bishé) intend to make things right by sacrificing the boys. A ‘sexy party ‘it ain’t.
From there, ATF agent Joseph Keenan (John Goodman) attempts to come to the rescue and take down the Church, only to have a few more twists and some dangerous gunfire play out. In spite of all the religious content, it’s actually the movie’s shifts in tone that seem to have rustled the most feathers. Critics have called Red State everything from “scattered and unfocused” and “a failure on almost every level” to “an upswing moment for Kevin Smith” and “a dirty little adrenaline rush”. The mixed reviews began at the Sundance Film Festival, where State premiered. Last month, Fantasia programmers choose the controversial film to open this year’s 15th edition of the festival. The screening sold out, but Smith was unable to attend, sending a self-deprecating video apology in his place.
He brings it back tonight as part of his own release plan for the picture, having chosen to take an indie approach and distribute it through his production company. He’s already been through the US and is now working his way through Canada on the Red Province tour, eager to interact with his fans and hear what they have to say.
It’s pretty likely many will want to know why Hit Somebody – a film based on the hockey song by Warren Zevon – is set to be the last film he’ll ever direct. To ask him yourself, get to Concordia’s Hall Building tonight by 7:30 for Red State: An Evening with Kevin Smith. Tickets available through Ticketmaster.