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UNDER THE SKIN (2014) dir. Jonathan Glazer

21 Oct

Movies in Japan are a few months behind the latest release. At the moment Under the Skin is playing. Last night I was lying in bed pretty sure that the day was over when I decided to take Joe and Jonny up on an invitation to go on a midnight venture to the movie theatre. It’s been almost half a year since I saw them last. Many days. For posterity I should like to mention that for the first hour, while we waited for Joe, Jonny spent most of the time projectile vomiting in MacDonalds or a 7 Eleven. It was more fun than walking to the 24 hour post office in Shinjuku to find that passbook cash withdrawals are unavailable after 9pm, which was the other thing we did before meeting Joe at Shinjuku station East exit. When Jonny was in the toilet, I read Snow by Orhan Pamuk. It worked out well.

Joe had to lend me the ¥1800 it cost to go to the theatre. Don’t ask why it’s not possible to withdraw on Sunday nights after 9pm. I once made the mistake of researching it and it’s something mindbogglingly dull like there’s nobody to man the desk at the ATM headquarters. Walking through ni-chome to the movie theater, Joe enlightened us about the true nature of closing Yoyogi park. The government and the media have made a big fuss about dengue fever. The gates to Yoyogi are still currently shut. But this means that there’s no platform readily available to the nuclear protesters. Yoyogi is a great space for a large number of people to meet easily to demonstrate. Without it, there isn’t really anywhere for demonstrators to meet and be taken seriously. If they got together outside a station, they would be sneered at for inconveniencing commuters. Joe’s theory makes sense: it is weird that the park continues to remain fenced off now the mozzies are hibernating.

We chose three seats together in the middle of the almost empty auditorium. Jonny had sent a link to the trailer that I didn’t watch. All I knew is that when I asked if it was a period drama, they laughed and said, “no, it’s a sci-fi, kind of”. The opening sequence caught my attention. It seemed to be taking place in space. Something was emerging or focusing. Then the image became an eye – light brown amber eye – with the pupil retracted. A river flowed: a dark channel in a snow covered backdrop. A man on a motorbike collects the body of a woman from the undergrowth and places her in a van. Scarlett Johansson strips the woman and wears the clothes. Even the underwear. From there the story begins.

Scarlett’s character steps out of a building, goes to a shopping mall, selects a fur coat and pink sweater to wear, which seemed to make wearing the dead woman’s attire pointless. Wasn’t she supposed to be pretending to be her? The shopping mall wasn’t one of those fancy spacious American ones. This was clearly the U.K.. It felt crowded. The inhabitants were over-weight. Everything was under loved. Cheap grey or black fabric wrapped around almost every body. Shops displayed their tacky glamour with an inward sense of pride. Their garish products were just there to be bought. The manner in which they were loved was unfathomable to Johansson. It made me a little homesick.

Next Johansson began to drive around the city of Glasgow, talking to young men, asking for directions, taking some in the van. Her utterly heartless behaviour can be seen when she murders a swimmer who has failed to rescue a drowning couple. Their toddler child is alone on the beach crying while she drags the body to the van. Later, to great effect, the man on the motorbike returns to the scene to destroy evidence of the swimmer’s existence. The child still weeps, alone on the shore in the dark. The man walks away unflinchingly.

We learn that Johansson takes the men to empty buildings. She undresses in a room with a black mirrored floor. The men undress and follow her across the room. She continues to walk backwards on the floor as they begin to submerge into it. Very strange indeed. At one point, we’re underneath the floor with one of the victims. Something weird is happening to him. His body creaks. Is he suspended in a fluid? He appears to be able to breathe. Something is going on with his forehead. He spots another man and reaches out to touch him. The other man explodes. A lifeless skin flaps about in the fluid as though a burst balloon. We see a red fluid conveyed through a vent.

At the end of the movie I still didn’t understand this scene at all. Jonny said, “It’s simple. She was murdering the men for their skin for the man on the bike to wear. When they got taken to that place under the floor, their insides were being removed. She began to become too human and experience sympathy so she ran away. The man was looking for her.” She is, of course, an alien. We can be sure of this at the end. The certainty alone made me want to watch this movie again. As we spoke about what we’d each noticed, the conclusion drawn was that there was so much silent detail in this movie it can only end up being a cult classic. Initially though, I’m not sure that I liked it. It felt mysterious in the same way as an amateur short does. Hashed together.

One day later, I feel that I love it. There’s so much to see another time round. Things that made little sense will be clearer with the knowledge she’s not of Earth. She can’t eat human food. She’s worried that her skin has torn after she has sex. Is the man on the motorbike wearing the skin of the previous men she seduced? Do they need the skins for more aliens to wear? Are more coming? The black and white colour scheme was pretty revealing. What more can be seen through that? Did I know one of the extras talking on her phone in a doorway? Gemma from Chester, was that you? Were there scenes near the end filmed ten minutes from where my parents live? (Update – Yes, there were). The questions have kept coming all day, today, another rotation of the Earth.

Later, when were drinking on the street in the vice-laden area of Kabukicho, the thought of comparing this movie to Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey made more sense than it did before we’d left the cinema. Today, after reading many reviews that say a wide range of things, I’m impressed. My favorite review is this one from The Guardian newspaper. How is it possible for every critic to say something entirely different? There’s almost no dialogue. Imagery is paramount. There’s so much always-already there. Not to leave out Micachu, who has done a splendid job of producing a soundtrack that instantly transports to other points in time.

We often feel like we’re living on a different planet by being in Japan. It was a fun evening out watching the grotesque show of humanity, people watching at first on screen, watching an alien try to comprehend Glasgow. Then in the street surrounded by strange liquids that splashed up my bare legs, vomit, urine and endless bright caricatures lit by neon signs, chatting, staring, possessing what they see with their eyes.


The Lady Vanishes (1938) Hitchcock

28 Oct

Aaah this is still a draft

Historicism is something to salivate over. Most modern cinema is too recent for its historical content to be worth scrutiny, passed onto digital formats for the supposedly anti-decaying properties, which personally I think is erroneous. I’ve seen faint beams of light, in more than one online image, become crystalline. Ultimately time alone will tell how presence occupies digital reserves. Film corrodes and alters in time. Who knows what will occur with other mediums? How could we possibly tell? The Lady Vanishes for free on was a real eye opener, mainly because it’s set in 1938, when tensions between European nations were a paramount media topic. The historical content, both direct and indirect, a thing of beauty for the viewer or a cinema historian.

The opening titles are played over what resembles a black and white interpretation of an alpine oil painting. Then cue the action and the camera pans round from a height: this is real not some painting. There is slight movement juxtaposed against the still backdrop. The camera moves out impossibly off the edge of the precipice. We’re above a train lying half buried in snow, growing closer, zooming closer, until we’re almost level with a moving car. Then we reach the first location of the movie: a hotel.

Inside the hotel we’re introduced to the main characters: a bickering couple; some young assured ladies; a couple of Englishmen; a middle-aged governess; and a folk-dance historian. We’re also introduced to some English idiosyncrasies that are to become themes throughout the movie. Marriage is a theme: one of the young ladies is to return to London to be wed because ‘what else is left?’ for her, the couple (who are married to other people we learn) consist of a dissatisfied, disempowered woman and her decisive partner. Carelessness and disregard are also a theme with the peculiar Englishness of giving the appearance of caring and expecting this to be reciprocated.

The Englishmen muse upon the importance of showing respect for another’s culture by standing for the Romanian national anthem and then humorously reveal that they were the only people standing. They certainly show no regard or respect for the hotel yet demand a level of hospitality that is beyond the proprietor’s power; they’re given the maid’s room, sulking ironically rather than with gratitude, when she needs to use it momentarily. The folk-dance historian goes beyond rude to become ‘the most disagreeable person I’ve ever met in all my life’ according to the young lady who is to be married.

Then the mystery begins with a shadowy pair of hands wrapping round the throat of a musician outside, still unnoticed as the inhabitants of the hotel board the train the following morning, when another creepy pair of hands pushes a wooden plant container off a windowsill directly above the governess but unfortunately striking the young lady upon the head instead.

The setting changes to the train. The governess accompanies the lady for tea, where the Englishmen are debating cricket, writing her name casually in the steamy window: Froy. She hands over her own herbal concoction popular in Mexico to be prepared by the steward. The lady takes a turn for the worse and the two women enter a compartment with several Victorian looking Europeans. She falls asleep. When she awakens, not only is Miss Froy nowhere to be found, but nobody on the train has seen her at all.

The Europeans deny she was ever in the compartment; the steward shows the lady a bill to prove that she took tea for one, regular tea, not herbal; the married couple, whom Miss Froy stumbled upon, have no knowledge; the Englishmen, not wanting to be delayed for the test match, say they have no recollection…

THE GODFATHER (1972) Dir. Francis Ford Coppola

1 May

The Godfather is one of those classic works of cinematography upon which so much has already been written that it would be a waste of semantics to regurgitate more of the same. The movie has its own Wikipedia page such is its legendary status. My main interest here is with several of the themes; the intention to consider how I can use them in my own life.

As any person trained in film studies or cultural analysis understands, the first five minutes of a movie are the most important. It is here – in the first few moments – that we are introduced to the colour themes, philosophical themes, points of interest, our attention is grabbed. The director directs the viewer with greater intensity (this compression psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud calls always-already); it happens whether or not it is deliberated so in most cases it is. Here, just a little beyond the opening, we get to grips with the look and feel of the completed movie.

A movie might have a beginning, middle and an end, it might have a story, follow a plot. But I would argue that a film is structured more like a paragraph than anything. A paragraph, of course, has a beginning, middle and an end but it also has a topic sentence. A topic sentence is a structure that contains the important information that the rest of the paragraph is built around. It’s usually the first or second sentence from the beginning or end of the paragraph. Every film has a scene that acts as a topic sentence – a kind of concentrated essence – a reduction. It may be located at any point during the film. In most cases it is at the beginning or end of ‘the middle’ section. It’s not the same aspect to the film as the opening moments.

In The Godfather coincidentally the ‘topic sentence scene’ is planted right at the beginning. It’s very simple and powerful. The entire film can be expanded from what we see happen. Just as a man is in the presence of Vito Corleone, head of the family (the family) Michael Corleone will rise from civilian to gangster, he will present himself to the underworld. The man sits and explains how his daughter has been disfigured by two boys who received suspended sentences and walked free. Michael Corleone will take over the family business once it’s power has been diminished, the perpetrators still at large. Can the Don offer a glimpse of justice? Will life as a gangster be an honorable, upright way of life for Michael?

As Don Corleone speaks in reply to the man we learn the following things are paramount to him:
1. Listening
2. Friendship
3. Respect
4. Honour. Being ‘a man of his word’
To our surprise, even though the disfigured girl is his godchild, he does not automatically agree to help. This is because her father has not sought his friendship prior to needing his help. Michael puts his family first when the options are given and the man has given his family priority too to some extent. I mean, really, who wants to get caught up in mafia business? But this same logic means that the act of asking for help is disrespectful. Friends are an extension of family. However, because the request is made on the Don’s daughter’s wedding day, it is custom to agree to whatever is asked. This makes the act of asking for help even more disrespectful, it’s agreed to out of obligation to fulfill promises, not because it is deserved.

The four qualities outlined above are what Michael Corleone must learn in order to be at the head of the family (the family). If he had listened to himself without hesitating, he could have saved Appolonia from the carbomb. His brother, Sonny, doesn’t listen. Friendship (and therefore emnity) is the ever important theme throughout the war between families. Friendship here means loyalty, trust, mutual respect and sharing. Michael stands by his beliefs and can be respected, whereas his brother and brother-in-law are not loyal and so don’t earn our respect or trust. I think Michael differs from his father in that his ‘honour’ is generally revenge rather than keeping his word. Again, this is more marked with Sonny, who doesn’t listen and therefore bursts into rages. Sonny raises his fist in a passion. Michael waits years to serve revenge cold.

On a personal level, I was told to watch this film to see what I could figure out about sustaining interest and keeping attention, so what did I learn? Well, it’s a three hour masterpiece and is entertaining. I’ve seen it several times before and loved the books by Mario Puzo when I read them in y2k. Knowing what to expect didn’t detract from the enjoyment of watching. The black, white and burnished red hues are exquisite and will only look better with time.

Listening is obviously an important skill. Without listening there would be no understanding. (I could have included reasoning in the list above but reasoning is a subsidary of the others in the same way that trust is a subsidary of honour and friendship). The music in The Godfather keeps us interested. There are scenes (like at the hospital) where no music would’ve had us hitting fast forward. If we are listening we are still, so the inner strength to stay in one place for three hours and pay attention is transferable, particularly possible when what’s going on in the background has that audible quality.

Friendship is comprised of many other components. In life, generally, I’ve had extreme experiences of friendship, some really outstandingly good, some unbelievably bad. I’ve moved so many times that I’ve learned that very few relationships are about more than what is readily available. I guess what Vito Corleone was saying at the beginning of the film I agree with – matey hasn’t come to him for friendship so why does he think he can come to him for justice? But I also have concerns about defining friendship so simplistically. He seems to be saying that friendship is sharing. From my own experiences, sometimes I’ll bump into people and they’ll say “I haven’t been in touch with you for six months” and apologise (beg forgiveness). This is always weird for me because I have moved around a lot and with this a perception of time changes. Six months, three years, a decade – it’s nothing. What is special is that the bond is still there without any scrap of resentment, without any fear of resentment. That’s friendship, for me. It’s more than just sharing in such simplistic terms. But is this enough to keep other people interested?

Also, what is rude about the request for help is a principle that I try to live by, much to the aggreivance of some who say “why are you afraid to ask for help when you need it?” The plain truth is that when I have problems, I try to keep them away from other people, in the same way that I do when I have a contagious cold because I care about people and believe in myself. So if I need something with alacrity (a job, a house, a confidante, a friend) then I try to confine myself to myself.

It didn’t used to be like that but when I needed my friends to support me this one time, they all vanished behind polite smiles, and – to cut a long story short – because I didn’t listen to gossip and tried to help someone genuinely in need. That incident changed my view of friendship. It make me see how superficial a lot of people are (I’m probably a really bad friend). That incident made it difficult to make new friends and believe in what most people think of as friendship. As a consequence, self-reliance became more important than dependence. Still, what Vito Corleone is talking about at the beginning of the film about sharing time together is interesting, especially in light of “will you add me?” rather than “can I add you?” In other words ‘will you show me you are my friend?’ rather than ‘can I be your friend?’: a contemporary situation where the dynamic is similar, where the show of friendship is the special quality. Don Corleone suggests that showing respect, sharing each other’s company, is the purpose to a friend. And that is a wise expectation of friendship, particularly when situated next to emnity.

While we’re on the subject, the ‘I haven’t heard from you for a long time’ indignance that supposes a kind of contempt is utterly absurd, particularly from my perspective when I have so many friends and so little time to contact everyone. When you are thinking in terms of a much greater area geographically then there is naturally the demand of the more compact zone to feel included within that. On a practical level ‘out of sight, out of mind’ and responsibility is passed.

Respect. I sometimes hear people speaking about how so-and-so has lost respect. But they still speak to them like they normally would. Surely interacting with the disrespected is odd as it leads to a circuit of disrespect? This led to the conclusion that respect is similar to value but not interchangeabe. If so-and-so has lost their value, then it isn’t necessary to lose respect. Better to respect all people at all times. Does Michael respect Connie when he murders her husband? Yes, he offers his compassion and understand her situation. Does he value Connie and her child amply, as they would like to be valued? No, he does not; the value he does have for them does not prevent his actions. Does he love her? That’s for Connie to decide.

Honour and integrity are intregral to civilised society. They form the core to morality and therefore interaction. We all each have differing morals, what is acceptable to some is unacceptable to others, religion shouldn’t matter on Earth because of the deeper truths and principles superceding all religion but in practice it defines an individual’s personal integrity. If you are raised so that you believe you can not make right a mistake you have made, then you will have a completely different set of values and use your integrity in a different way to defend your honour than if you have the inbuilt belief that it is possible to influence retribution.

Michael is forced to kill the husband of his sister to keep his integrity. He needs to be seen to have a certain standard and not deviate from it. In The Godfather, generally mistakes are ok as long as they are acknowledged, and as long as their resolution is beneficial for integrity. This is a positive safety net for personal growth. There is the fear of dishonour through loss of integrity rather than a fear caused by dishonour. Integrity is under a person’s control whereas dishonour is not. In The Godfather, believing that the outcome of one’s actions can be determined by striving to correct one’s mistakes is very different to the stark contrast of a purity of action, which many of us deceive ourselves is our own standard.

Writing this review has showed me how important enjoyment, consistency, listening, being self-effacing, being self-reliant and encouraging dependency are if you want to be captivating and therefore become trusted with rewards of loyalty. I wasn’t expecting a gangster film to be full of the kind of qualities I wanted to explore in this review but The Godfather is full of quality.

DJANGO UNCHAINED dir. Quentin Tarantino (2012)

7 Feb

 What Quentin Tarantino does well in a movie is create the feeling of mythology, a kind of significance, building the slightest action into what seems like the grandest gesture. I suspect during filming he gives his actors clear instructions about exactly what he sees working and gets them to do it again and again until there are enough takes to choose from. But that’s what directors do. So what else does Tarantino do?

For a start Django Unchained could equally nobly be titled just Django, like the original 60’s western. But Django Unchained gives insight into the over-emphasis so typical of the director. In fact, after I came out of the Curzon on Shaftesbury Avenue, the thought of having seen Django Unchained was enough in itself to cause a supressed laugh.

Django (Jamie Foxx) we don’t know as a slave, other than for a minute at the start, naked and chained, about to be freed by Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz), a bounty hunter posed as dentist. Django has the info that will help Dr. Schultz locate a band of badmen. Together they arrive at the plantation in time to witness a flogging. Of course, Django is black, thereby raising some eyebrows riding his own horse while wearing fancy silks. But when he dismounts, spies the wanted men and rescues a girl strung for whipping, it’s more than eyebrows that are raised. He takes the men out, one by one, with venom, securing his revenge.

Before watching Django Unchained, statements on facebook that Tarantino is past it left me intrigued, but even more so once I’d seen it. It’s not the best of his films but it’s not at all bad. As brutal as the rest, Jackie Brown is my favorite Tarantino movie; a crisp white shirt packs a slick punch that no amount of punching can pack. Django Unchained, from the moonlit forest opening, would appear to be on par. A spin on a parody of the classic spaghetti western genre, the detail, the significance, the subtle force that leaves the viewer mesmerised and wondering how the effect was achieved – wanting to unpack the punch so to speak – it was just right. Incidentally, Anthony Lane of The New Yorker agrees (you can read his review here). He spells the downturn of the film out as the word Mississippi sprawling across the screen halfway through, the cutting point, beyond which the pace changes.

Mississippi is where Django and Dr. Schultz gain the trust of Calvin Candie (Leonardo di Caprio), a Francophile slave dealer specialising in fights, who happens to own Django’s wife Boomhilda (Kerry Washington). Violence in the second half of the film appears thrown in for the horror of it. It keeps the pace ticking over: a stick of dynamite here, flesh beaten to pulp there. Is this cause for contempt towards Tarantino’s style? Or reason for celebrating it? It certainly raised a laugh amongst the crowd. Plus the director made a cameo or three.

Django escapes from the film unscathed, fresh faced, with his woman by his side, glowing and ready for the sequel, should there be the need to make further comment on shadows of the past. And if there were it would be a bolder, grander, larger, brighter, intenser and more tactile, more marvellous, more superlative comment than anything else.

LOOPER (2012) directed and written by Rian Johnson

30 Sep

Starring Bruce Willis and Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Joe, Looper was an entertaining way to have spent the evening. Joe exists in 2072 and 2042 simultaneously. The younger Joe works for a man called Abe, who is from the future, living in 2042. The majority of the film is set in this year with one short sequence explaining what happens to Joe in the thirty year interim.

I’m scanning my mind back to this flashing glimpse of a man’s life.

In 2042, Joe is a hitman – a ‘looper’ – who has signed up to Abe’s gang who are concurrently operating in 2072. By then time-travel is invented and available. But the lawlessness of everything means that it’s highly illegal. Victims are sent back in time bagged and bound, and assignated by loopers.

A bizarre part of the employment contract of a looper states that when the risk to the gang’s operations becomes too great, the looper will be sent back in time to the barrel of his own gun, to close the loop by death. By way of recognition, the payment is gold bullion strapped to the victim on these occaisons, rather than silver. From this moment the looper is granted thirty years left to live as a free man.

However, Joe returns to himself and escapes. By not killing his future self he has put both their life-united in danger. He continues to try to track himself down in the hope of appeasing his mistake. What happens is that they meet, the older Joe is madly in love with his wife, and wants to change 2042 so that he can live to see 2080 with her.

The younger Joe and the gang fail to kill the older Joe. But the gang also fails to kill the younger Joe. Before the older one flees he passes the details of the gang leader in 2072 on to his younger self. It turns out to be a little boy who lives on a farm. This is where they meet again.

Rian Johnson’s vision of a future is depressingly believeable: a world filled with poverty and extortionate wealth. The tragic story reminded me of The Door in the Wall by HG Wells. All the characters are trying to find something that has already found them.

On the surface not that much was different about the future to 2012 but the detail was blackandwhite better version of our technology. Keeping sets as they are today but more extreme was a touch of class. It will ripen as a film I expect. There is plenty to think about beyond the end; not everything is immediately crystal clear.

KILL LIST (2011) dir. Ben Wheatley

15 Aug

Having just seen Kill List, (starring Neil Maskell and MyAnne Buring as Jay and Shel, Michael Smiley as Gal), I’m filled with this empty feeling working on two levels. Although it was violent, it wasn’t a bad film. The way it ends is stomach churning and horrifying; one cause for the bereft sensation. The other reason is that, like Dusk Til Dawn, this starts out as one genre and ends as another. In this case it begins as an action thriller involving a couple of Iraq veteran hitmen and ends as a pagan-styled ritualistic killing. I say ‘pagan-styled’ because no pagan I know would get involved with anything remotely sacrificial as seen in this film. It makes me rage angry. It makes me sick.
  I did hear of a guy out there bringing pagan people liberation by walking round the town in his robes smoking hashish. He attracted a few supporters but largely a hoodie-wearing lager louts putting the boot in on a Friday night.
  Unfortunately, there are pseudo- Christian brigades who think that movies like Kill List are based upon truisms. Openly pagan people attract the wrath of these fools when things in their lives aren’t going well. Lost your job, suffering from depression and pagan? They can’t wait to sink their claws into you. Of course you worship the Devil and are a void waiting for problems to fill.
  Kill List drums up fear of pagan weirdos succinctly if nothing else. Early on in the film we see Gal’s new girlfriend go upstairs and scrawl a symbol onto the back of a mirror. What was that about? What does it mean? Is she spying on them? Then the same symbol occurs on documentation that Gal finds in a victim’s house. Jay thinks he sees her out of the hotel window, eerily as if a dream, in the night.
  Most scarily is that when Gal goes off, Jay is left alone with their pervert victim. “He doesn’t know who you are!” says the pervert. Jay looks a little unnerved. Bound to a chair, coming from the heart, the pervert continues. “Can I just say, while I’m alone with you, thank you. It’s been an honour to meet you.” It’s so creepy! Not for the first time a man Jay is about to assassinate is thanking him sincerely. We don’t know if Jay himself – neither at this stage in the film nor later in dramatic irony – knows about the religious order, perhaps he even belongs to it, the blunt open ending gives few clues. Retrospectively, it seems likely both victims realise the trap that Jay will find himself in the final scene and are thanking him for playing their game. One suggestion is that the cult is trying to recreate Jay as an antichrist.
  The arrival of the murderous worshippers carrying torches is slightly unsettling. We’ve all heard stories about the villagers in Cornwall who abduct local children. What we imagine this type of community to be like is actually exposed before our eyes in this film but not with the conviction of either of the Wicker Man films. No wonder real-life ceremonial devotees conduct their affairs in secrecy. I wonder what situations a cinematic experience like this creates for a pagan.
  There is a gross sense of irony about the position of Jay in the final moments before the titles come up. We’re left to wonder not only what he’ll do next but what his relationship is now to the cult?
 There are some perplexing plot factors lingering at the end. Why is Shel laughing? Is it because she’s tough and meeting the last breath with a grin? Or is she in on the deal? Are they trying to make Jay a reconstruction of something deeper? Is that what they are on about when they speak of Reconstruction? What are they talking about when they talk of Reconstruction? 
Kill List has potential. It asks to be watched again.

RED STATE (2011) dir. Kevin Smith

15 Aug

Red State is notable for not having a main character. The story begins with passing a funeral for a murdered queer; a protest against homosexuality distastefully happening outside the hearst. It then follows three young men who have arranged to have sex with an older woman. The best looking one (Kyle Gallner) is prime candidate for the lead role throughout most of the film.

Quentin Tarantino had his name on the poster recommending this film. It has a certain silly non-real quality that some of his films have. The scene right at the start, in which the school teacher says that even the Nazi’s think the funeral-protest religious group, the Five Points Church, are ‘nucking futs’ establishes a level of realness that is not matched elsewhere in the film.  

This classroom moment leads smoothly into the ‘Can you get the car tonight?’
  Sexually deviant is found murdered; religious cult protests at the funeral. Three young boys are invited for orgy with woman. What happens next? Do you think that the cult might murder the boys? No sooner do they take off their shirts does the tranquiliser kick in. 

 Half an hour into the film, the good looking one is in a cage in the hyper-Christian church witnessing another victim being wrapped in cling-film then shot through the top of the head. He and his homies are next in line to the sexual cleansing that reverend Avin Cooper and his inbred church are bringing to the people of America. One of the boys makes a getaway only to discover a room full of guns. 

 Meanwhile, the deputy sheriff arrives. Shots are fired. The deputy sheriff and the boy in the room full of guns end up dead. Avin is quick on the radio (wrapped in a hanky to disguise his prints) using his charm and charisma to blackmail the Sheriff about ‘wiping faeces from his genitals’ and other photographs taken of his involvement in homosexual acts. The Sheriff seems to have fallen for it.

Then he comes to his senses and arranges a siege organised by John Goodman (King Ralph; The Big Lebowski). It should have been simple but when the second of the boys makes a run for it, the incompetent closet-gay Sheriff fires, killing an innocent. This is where it gets absurd. For half an hour there is a battle of bullets. It’s the freaky Christians versus the law enforcement agents.

The most normal daughter (Kaylee Defer) wants to flee with the kids and tries to entice the good looking one to help. He’s having none of it. His two best mates are goners. When they do make it outside, although he protests, the law enforcement officers put them out of their misery, much to shock effect. An hour in and the character we latched onto most is out of the rest of the film.

John Goodman takes over as the lead from this point to the end. The nutjob cult leader, Avin Cooper, is still alive, praying for a sign, when suddenly ‘the Rapture’ happens. The trumpets of angels are unleashed. All left standing are mesmerised by his charm, his superior knowledge, his shining faith.

 Red State, despite the title, has nothing to do with Russia or communism. It has everything to do with a Christian commune and dried blood smeared upon gun-holding hands, in deepest darkest cheesy America