Kevin Smith is an irreverent filmmaker whose first film, "Clerks," became a cult classic. Now he's just making a film about a "cult," and he's drawn the ire of the Westboro Baptist Church. He doesn't care. And when they protested the film at the Sundance Film Festival on Sunday, he mockingly protested them back. Take that.
Westboro probably has some cause to be upset. It's obvious to everyone who's seen only a trailer for Smith's new movie "Red State" that the film's "cult" is modeled after the Westboro church and their extreme religious views. Take a look:
For the most part, critics say the film will offend everyone. How can it not when Entertainment Weekly calls it a "bizzaro horror thriller ... about a gay-hating minister (Michael Parks) who goes on a blood-drenched rampage against an equally murderous squad of federal agents, with some sex-crazed teens stuck in the middle."
"Clearly driven by outrage over the anti-gay fulminations of some American Christian pastors, Kevin Smith's aggressively profane script works startling twists on scare film conventions while also taking the U.S. government to task for its simplistic use of terrorist threats as an excuse to do anything it wants," a Reuters film review says.
It's a horror film with sexual content that centers around religious extremists, which leads Reuters to conclude it's "cleverly contrarian enough to get a rise out of almost any audience."
Roger Friedman at ShowBiz411.com reviews it this way:
“Red State”–made quickly this past fall–may be Smith’s best work. It looks terrific, has a talented cast including Melissa Leo and John Goodman, and moves very efficiently It’s violent, but it’s nothing we haven’t seen before. It is surely an indictment of the “red states”–although the red is also about blood. This is a horror film, after all, albeit one with a definite goal and point of view.
In case it's unclear, everyone will be offended.
But only one audience segment (so far) showed up to protest. That segment was the Westboro members, who brought their infamous signs to the Sundance Film Festival Sunday to protest the movie's release. Ever the "antagonist," Smith met them with his own signs. In response to "God Hates Fags," for example, Smith held up a sign saying "God Hates Fat." Clever.
There was more, as Chris Barrett of Showbiz411.com shows:
[WARNING: Contains some foul language]
Besides upsetting Westboro protesters at the film festival, Smith also angered some distributors by the way he released the film. Smith had indicated he would auction off distribution rights to "Red State" after its Sundance premiere Sunday night, and he brought up the movie's producer, Jonathan Gordon, to handle the sale.
Gordon told the audience the bidding was open, Smith offered $20, and his producer proclaimed the film sold.
The auction was a stunt to emphasize Smith's real plans -- to release "Red State" himself, without the tens of millions of dollars in marketing money that Hollywood pours into its releases. Instead, Smith says he will take "Red State" out city to city beginning in March.
That means one thing for sure: many more run ins with the Westboro Baptist Church. And if the movie does nothing but aggravate that church, many will hail it as a success.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.