Horror Review: Red State (dir. by Kevin Smith)


Kevin Smith’s 2011 film was a major departure for him. It wasn’t the usual comedy (his last one being the very awful buddy-cop comedy, Cop Out) but instead his first foray into one of film’s earliest film genre: the horror film. Say what you want or feel about Kevin Smith (and there’s a huge range of people who either love the man or hate him like the second coming of the Antichrist) but when he decides to make a film he puts everything of himself on display and he wears his emotions on his sleeves when it comes to his films. It’s this aspect of Smith’s personality which has gained him such a loyal following, but has also earned him the scorn and, for some, hate of film bloggers who now constitute the bulk of film criticism in the digital age. This first horror film for Kevin Smith would be called Red State and it would be a film that would continue to expand the gulf between those who hate him and those who support him. Lost in this playground-like tiff was whether the film would be a return to form for Smith or just a continuation of some very bad films in the last half-decade.

Red State could almost be called a coming-of-age story since the film begins with three high school boys joining together to travel to a neighboring town where they  hope to engage in some sexual extracurricular activities. It’s also in this very town that we learn very early on in the film that the Five Points Church calls home. This church and it’s congregation has one Pastor Abin Cooper (Michael Parks) as it’s leader with it’s membership either related by blood to Cooper or by way of marriage. In this picture would arrive an ATF task force led by Special Agent Keenan (John Goodman) to investigate the illegal doings of Cooper and his flock. It’s between these two groups that the three teenage boys would find themselves in a horrific situation with their lives in the balance.

Let’s just say that this film had much potential in it’s plot and how it’s initially set-up. The character of Pastor Abin Cooper and his flock was definitely patterned after the Westboro Baptist Church led by Fred Phelps who’re infamous for picketing funerals of soldiers and for being outright homophobic in their teachings and ideology. The ATF group with Keenan in command looks to be set-up to represent the Federal government and it’s police agencies run amok in their attempt to fight terrorism since Sept. 11, 2001. Then Smith drops in three horny teenage boys in the mix and it sure must’ve read like a surefire story with horror and action.

What we get instead was a film which didn’t seem to know how to proceed with the initial set-up. The film began and played out like something similar to Hostel and films of a similar vein. Unsuspecting teens lured by sex to be made an example of by a group of people extreme in their passions and ideas. If the film had continued with just those two groups as the core of the film’s story then it could’ve made for a decent survival horror film, but the addition of the ATF task force and how they impacted the dynamics between the congregation and the teens unbalanced everything. Now what was suppose to be a horror film turned into an action-drama.

The performances by the cast was also inconsistent. This could be due to the weakness of the screenplay which tried too hard to push Cooper and his people as batshit crazy through overly long sermons. Sermons by Abin Cooper that was delivered by Michael Parks in convincing fashion at times and then mumbled incoherently at others. The three teens were also a problem in that they weren’t sympathetic by any means. Even knowing what awaited them didn’t lessen the fact that these three teens were obnoxious and vulgar to the point that we didn’t care if Cooper and his people tortured and killed them.

One would expect that the addition of John Goodman as the ATF special agent and Kevin Pollak as his assistant would at least bring some serious acting chops to the proceedings, but their characters were so thinly-written and their dialogue so forced that one couldn’t believe them as real characters. It’s a shame that the film’s overall screenplay couldn’t provide the necessary foundation for a cast that had a very good veteran ensemble which included Melissa Leo, James Parks and Stephen Root.

Red State really failed in the very thing that was suppose to make this film the beginning of a shift in Kevin Smith’s career. It failed as a horror film in the most general sense. There was never any true feeling of horror to be had throughout the film. Even the first death of an unnamed homosexual kidnapped by the congregation to be used as an example during one of Cooper’s sermons failed to elicit any form of horror. This was a film which had much potential for some horrific sequences but it never explored it. The film doesn’t even work as a thriller which would be the closest this film ever got to be. Even the ending of the film which tried to inject a semblance of the supernatural didn’t even work as it turned out to be a major bait-and-switch that didn’t come off as creative once it was explained.

Does the film justify some of the venom hurled at it from Kevin Smith’s detractors?

I would say no in that the film wasn’t the worst thing he has made by a long shot. It did have some moments that hinted at something special could’ve been made if someone else was involved or if the film had more time to be worked on. I do believe that if Red State was made by anyone else other than Kevin Smith it would be considered average to good. But having such a polarizing figure as it’s creator and marketer might have blinded some in actually watching this film with an open-mind.

Does this mean Red State was actually a good film?

I would say no with the reasoning I’ve mentioned above. But I will say that the film wasn’t dull or boring. As unnecessary as the ATF task force to the story as a whole their arrival and the subsequent reaction of the congregation to them made for some exciting few minutes. Even Michael Park’s performance was quite good despite some of his line deliveries coming off as incoherent mumblings.

If Red State was to be Kevin Smith’s attempt to try and move away from his history of making comedies then it was a failed one. While it was a failure I wouldn’t mind him going back to the genre to hone his skills in doing more horror. If Uwe Boll could continue making even worst materials then surely Smith could be given another chance to make another and fix the very things which he did wrong with Red State with another horror film project. One thing for sure he would not be lacking in actors wanting to work with him.

BlizzCon 2011: Mists of Pandaria Overview Part 2


I left off yesterday having discussed Blizzard’s initial overview of the Pandaria zone, the race of Pandaren, and the new Monk class. As with any expansion, World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria will feature much more than simply new quest and raiding content, however. Here is a look at some of the major additions and changes:

Talents 2.0

First of all, the talent system is getting a major overhaul, far beyond the changes it received in past expansions. There will now be only six talent points. That’s it. Blizzard made a big to do about Cataclysm’s failure to revamp talent builds, resulting in only 1-5 realistic choices out of 41 (the rest being pretty much mandatory for any given spec.) The idea in MoP will be to do away with every mandatory talent and instead create a system which should cater to a variety of playing styles without drastically influencing your dps. Or as I understand it, if you use them correctly every possible talent combination should peak for about the same overall benefit.

If that seems like high expectations, note that there will only be six talent points per class, not per spec. Your options will be the same whether you’re healing, tanking, dpsing, pvping, or whatever. Here’s a look at the tentative paladin talent screen:

If you are hoping to load up on all of the healing talents, think again. Your six points are not to be spent as you please, but can only be used once per row. If you get Blessed Life, Sacred Shield and Ardent Defender are gone, no getting around it. Don’t expect to waste thousands of gold checking them all out though. Talents will now function like glyphs, and rather than having to start from scratch you will be able to reset any particular row at any point in time outside of combat. Blizzard suggested this would be necessary for raiding, certain talents being more beneficial for certain bosses, so expect opportunities to put them all to a bit of use. As for those “ability” talents necessary for your spec, they will now just be given outright like other abilities.

Scenarios

Scenarios seem to me the most dubious of the new additions. They will be very short queuable events designed to replace the group quests of old, and they will not have any specific role requirements, so queues will be instant. They will be available at various levels, each should have a level 90 version rewarding a few valor points, and you will be able to queue for them while in dungeon queue. So far so good–it sounds like a pretty nice way to collect extra valor while waiting for those tedious 40 minute queues to pop. Here is a basic example of what the objectives of a Scenario might look like:

But aside from the fact that something that short could get really old really fast, here is the major drawback: Blizzard described a number of them as “pve battlegrounds.” What does this mean? Well, WoW Game Director Tom Chilton was fairly explicit in talking about them as battleground for people afraid to pvp. Does that mean they’ll reward honor? Does that mean the more sheepish players who don’t know what they’re doing–the ones I love graveyard camping oh so very much–will be able to get geared through these? Or even if they don’t, will this actually succeed in keeping bad players out of real battlegrounds? That, to me at least, would be a terrible disappointment.

But it gets worse. I first started to think Blizzard hated pvp servers when they updated village guards to prevent camping. My glorious days of sitting outside Grom’gol Base Camp picking off lowbie horde like flies are dead and gone; may they rest in peace. Scenarios seem to be further pushing towards refusing to reward dedicated pvpers for getting gear. The biggest catch though, really the biggest disappointment in all of Mists of Pandaria, I might as well throw at you now:

Resilience will be a base stat.

No, really. If you stand outside of your enemy faction’s city naked, you will have resilience. Oh, there will still be pvp gear, giving you more resilience, but I’m going to propose right now it will be useless. Right now going up against a raider in world pvp, my 4500 resilience means I win. And it should, because I joined a pvp server to pvp, and the guy I am fighting apparently didn’t. Narrow the gap to say, a 1000 resilience difference, and do you really think my measly Ruthless set is going to hold up against a full Firelands-equipped player?

As a hunter, I am well familiar with the lack of balance in WoW pvp. I win 1 on 1 because I am geared to the hilt. You take that away from me, and I’m just a fish out of water, dying to anyone who actively plays the game whether they care about pvp or not. Part of the idea is to make it so that players can jump into arena sooner–to prevent a block from progression. But isn’t honor already dirt cheap? Doesn’t it only take what, a week, to get fully geared for arena? Maybe it makes no difference, if you play on a pve server, but for me all this is doing is ruining world pvp–my favorite aspect of the game. Low blow Blizzard.

People have been complaining about how it’s too easy to get geared for raiding for ages now. I guess the idea with Scenarios and an overwhelming nerf to resilience is to give us pvpers something to gripe about too. Anyway, enough of that, let’s look at a more positive addition:

World of Pokemon

Lord only knows what has compelled me to so desperately seek out that 150 vanity pet achievement (I’m sitting around 135 at the moment), because I don’t even like the damn things. But it’s all going to pay off now in an addition sure to be both cheesy and addicting: vanity pet arena (I believe Pet Battle System is the official working title). You will now be able to level your pets (up to 25), form teams of between 1 and I believe 3 pets, and square off in turn-based battles both against other collectors and against new world pets that you can catch and add to your collection by defeating.

It’s looking to be a pretty complex process. You can visit trainers all over Azeroth to learn new abilities for your pets, you can trade them, you can auction them at high level, and they will be shared across your account. Imagine a pimped out White Kitten selling for 20k. I will be that man robbing you.

Without going into too much detail, pet stats will be randomly generated, so you might have to catch one multiple times to get the build you want. Pets will be seasonal, so certain ones might only appear in the summer or winter, and some will only appear in the day, at night, in the rain, in the night in rain in September, you get the idea. It’s going to be a whole game within a game, and it might sound silly right now, but I suspect this will soon stand alongside raiding and pvp as a third way to play World of Warcraft.

Other Features

* Dungeons will have a third form: “Challenge Mode”. They will consist of time trial runs in scaled-down gear, so they will never get easier as you gear up. There will be Bronze, Silver, and Gold times to beat, with different gear rewards (including statsless transmogrification sets) depending on your time. There will also be an in-game stats keeper showing your best time for each dungeon compared to other players on your server. I’m not sure how to take this. I play on one of the lowest population servers in Warcraft; we are pvp, and everyone knows everyone, so the competition to be on top is personal. I could see myself getting a bit obsessed over this one.

* Raids will also have a third form: Raid Finder. Breathe a sigh of relief; DF Raiding will be a tier below regular raiding. You won’t be able to just pug your way into a cross-server 25 man heroic run. It’s more a means to learn the mechanics while getting geared for normal raids, and I’m pretty excited about it. On servers like mine where low population means frequently bringing along one to two inexperienced players for progression attempts, there will be no more excuses. If you haven’t downed the boss through Dungeon Finder 10-man, you aren’t coming. I like it.

* There will be 9 new dungeons: six completely new ones, a heroic version of Scholomance, and a heroic version of Scarlet Monastery condensed into two dungeons. There will be three launch-ready raids, similar to Cataclysm.

* Blizzard failed miserably in Cataclysm by creating a lot of compelling world raid bosses and giving none of them any gear worth a damn. MoP is supposed to reintroduce world raiding proper. You can look for me ganking your healer half way through the fight.

* Expect 2-3 new battlegrounds, tentatively titled Stranglethorn Diamond Mines, Valley of Power, and Azshara Crater. If Twin Peaks and Battle for Gilneas were my two biggest disappointments in Cataclysm, these look to compensate thoroughly. Stranglethorn Diamond Mines is going to consist of transporting resources out of a mine down a whole mess of different passageways–the first team to successfully transfer the required amount wins. That means a lot of hiding, sneaking around, scouting ahead, and outsmarting rather than overpowering. It seems perhaps too complex to be 10 on 10, but I’m going to be disappointed if it isn’t, because it sounds perfect for rateds. Valley of Power is much more simplistic–a small square room with few opportunities to evade combat. Yet Blizzard managed to make it refreshingly unique. There will be an orb in the center of the room which any one player can hold, and so long as a faction is holding it they gain points, scaled to go up faster the closer you are to the center of the map (and thus to your enemies). But I don’t expect this to be a 2 minute fight followed by a 10 minute wait like Battle for Gilneas. There is an additional mechanic: whoever holds the orb will take periodic damage increasing over time. If there are no healers, it will eventually drop even if your team never touches the carrier. As for the third proposed battleground, Azshara Crater, Blizzard has said nothing.

* There will be a new arena: Tol’vir Proving Grounds. It looks identical to Nagrand Arena except the four pillars are diamonds rather than squares. Really? For as long as we’ve been waiting, it looks downright pathetic.

* There will be valor from daily quests. Thank god. Daily quests will also give you buffs that allow you to gain extra loot in dungeons. I’m not quite sure what to make of that.

* Many achievements will be account bound. They did not go into too many specifics on this, but I’m pretty damn excited. Achievements are my gig in WoW, even more so than pvp. I’m pushing 11,000 without hardly any from raids, and if this means I can roll a level 29 twink hunter and knock out all of the more insane pvp ones I’m going to be in the money. Not all achievements will be account bound however, and whether that means obvious ones like say, the level 90 achievement, won’t be, or if not all raid/pvp accomplishments will be either, is still up in the air. There will also be multi-toon achievements, like maxing out every profession.

* A few major class/stat changes were mentioned. The epic resilience nerf stands out as the worst, and maybe the worst idea Blizzard have for all of MoP. They will also be doing away with the range weapon slot. Relics will be gone, rogues and warriors will throw their main hand, and hunter bows/guns will become the main hand. Wait, how will hunters survive without a melee weapon? Ah, the most relevant buff of all for me: hunter minimum range is gone. Gone! No more frost mages locking me in place and taking me down without ever so much as taking damage. Hunters will finally be a viable dueling and 2s pvp class. Warlocks will also get a major overhaul to better distinguish the three specs, and the way they described Destruction I suspect they’re going to be pretty op, with a stacking damage buff that hopefully resembles Arcane Blast. Hopefully because I have an idle 85 warlock, that is. Shamans will no longer have buff totems, and lastly, druids will finally be recognized as officially having four specs.

There was one major question left in my mind when all was said and done. I play on one server exclusively. There are ten classes and ten toon slots, so I am full. As it stands, I will never actually get to play a monk. Will that change? Will they finally add an eleventh slot? WoW lead producer J. Allen Brack was asked this in the post-presentation interview, and his answer wasn’t promising: They’ve thought about it, but they’re not quite sure.

6 Horror-Filled Trailers For Those That Were Left Behind


Apparently, the Rapture was scheduled for yesterday and I missed it.  Now, I suppose there are a lot of reasons as to why I might have been left behind but quite frankly, I blame my first boyfriend.  Seriously, thanks for condemning me to three and a half years of tribulation, jerk!  Anyway, as long as we’re all stuck together, why not enjoy six more of Lisa Marie’s Favorite Grindhouse and Exploitation trailers?  Since it’s still October, I’m continuing my horror theme with this entry.  Plus, considering what the future holds for us, we should probably start getting used to a little horror…

1) The Burning (1981)

Agck!  I just recently saw this movie and that little raft scene totally freaked me out!  I would never get on a raft to begin with because it worries me that I might end up with some raftmate who keeps going, “Row!  Row!  Row!”  On another note, what’s up with those people who are always like, “Go! Go! Go!” in action scenes?  I’m just like, “Okay, fascist much?”  I mean, if you want to be all Mad Men-like, go watch AMC.

2) Return to Horror High (1987)

Three quick notes: 1) Watch carefully and you’ll see George Clooney pop up for about five seconds in this trailer, 2) if you don’t want people like getting killed at your school, don’t name it Horror, and 3) I made my sister watch this trailer and she assures me that a literal skeleton would never be allowed to become a cheerleader.

3) Splatter University (1984)

I assume this is where you go if you survive Horror High.  Usually I try to be kinda coy and funny about these things but this time I’m just going to flat-out say it: Based on this, this film appears to truly suck.  But I can’t resist a trailer that features melodramatic narration….

4) Slaughter High (1986)

Okay, this movie also looks terrible but check out the so-bad-its-going-t0-make-you-kill-someone musical score.  Again, I’d just like to point out that if this high school had simply been named after a dead president, a lot of needless death could have been avoided.  But no, they had to go with Slaughter High.

5) Hell High (1989)

As if I needed further proof to make my case, check out this trailer for Hell High.  I own this movie on DVD and I have to admit that I bought it solely because of the name. 

6) Videodrome (1982)

After those last few trailers, you may be ready for a trailer of a film that’s actually kinda sorta good.  So, here’s one for David Cronenberg’s Videodrome, which is one of the weirdest films I’ve ever seen, what with all that “new flesh” talk and James Woods’ body doing weird things…agck!