One of the most controversial features at the recent Sundance Film Festival was the gay-themed thriller “Red State.” The film’s director, Kevin Smith, brings his “Red State, U.S.A.” tour to the Cobb Energy Centre for a March 29 screening and question-and-answer session.
In the film, which follows a traditional horror movie plot, three teenagers discover an ad on the Internet from an older woman looking for sex and decide to answer it. What they find, instead, in the woods where they agree to meet is a family using various techniques to lure in unsuspecting young men they believe to be sinners; they often target gays as part of their crusading.
Jonathan Gordon, the film’s producer, says “Red State” is inspired loosely by Pastor Fred Phelps and his Westboro Baptist Church, the type of people who “say God’s word is the only word and picket funerals.”
Gay director Malcolm Ingram, who made the film “Small Town Gay Bar,” had met with Phelps as part of that film. Smith, one of Ingram’s closest friends, later asked how the interview went and was told there was more footage. After looking at the footage Smith persuaded Ingram to make a film about the subject matter. When Ingram opted not to, Smith decided it would be his next project.
Gordon has worked with Smith on several movies and he feels this is a departure for the director often known for his “blue humor.”
“These are scary people, but it’s not Leatherface or people getting hacked,” Gordon says.
The villain, Pastor Abin Cooper (Michael Parks), looks and sounds like a grandfather.
“What happens is horrible,” Gordon says. “I think it’s horror like ‘No Country for Old Men.’”
Smith kicked off the “Red State, U.S.A.” tour earlier this month at Radio City Music Hall with most of the cast, including Oscar winner Melissa Leo and John Goodman. Gordon feels the team has done a great job of planning the tour in both red and blue states across the country. He looks forward to seeing the reaction in Atlanta, although he feels the conservative crowd will stay away.
“No matter what your politics are, if you identify with the family — well, I’d be frightened if anyone identifies with these people,” he says. “I don’t think the more conservative crowd will come to this. Most people who come out and see this will see it because of Kevin.”
Smith has a following in the LGBT community and has included LGBT characters in his films, such as “Chasing Amy.”
“Even his movies like ‘Zack and Miri Make a Porno” have a sweetness to them,” says Gordon. “I also think that the Michael Parks character in ‘Red State’ is played in such a human way. Kevin tells honest stories. He’s not gay but it doesn’t matter. He has a universal desire for tolerance.”
The director does have a gay brother and has long spoken out for gay rights.
Gordon and Smith met 17 years ago and worked together on Smith’s first film, “Clerks.” Gordon was working for Miramax at the time and helped champion and distribute the independent film.
Both Smith and Gordon knew before they screened “Red State” at Sundance that they were going to distribute it themselves. So when Smith said before the screening he was going to pick a distributor from the crowd and later announced it was himself, some thought that he was thumbing his nose at the industry. He wasn’t, says Gordon, yet the statements eclipsed the movie.
The tour is being mounted to take the movie to the people and keep it in the public consciousness before it opens in the fall. “Red State” will open across the country on Oct. 19 to commemorate the 17th anniversary of “Clerks.”
Top photo: Michael Parks plays a pastor loosely based on Rev. Fred Phelps in ‘Red State,’ a horror film inspired by the ‘God Hates Fags’ church. (Publicity photo)