Smith’s stated intention was to make ‘Red State’ his first all-out horror movie, but the finished film doesn’t quite fit that remit. The set-up is pure torture porn, as three inexperienced high schoolers, led by Michael Angarano’s Travis, accept an offer from a mysterious hooker (a wonderfully trashy Melissa Leo), only to find themselves drugged and strung up by a nutso fire-and-brimstone cult. Thereafter, matters take a weirder turn, as the compound comes under fire from an armed ATF unit led by John Goodman.
On many levels, ‘Red State’ is a mess: it’s clumsily directed, messily structured and desperately unsubtle in its political outlook. But for all its faults, this is a film which feels impassioned and idiosyncratic. If nothing else, it’s nice to see this director refusing to play by the rules of the multiplex.