I finally bought Kevin Smith's Red State, after kind of forgetting about it for awhile. I'm a big fan, of course, in particular of Clerks 2 and Dogma, and to a lesser degree, Zack & Miri. I like his movies because the dialog is generally solid, and the writing always stands out.
There were a lot of interesting things about this movie before it was even released. First, it's way out of his comfort zone, firmly planted in the horror and thriller genres. More importantly, it was made for next to nothing ($4 million) and he basically gave the middle finger to the film industry by showing it at Sundance, then taking it on a theater tour starting at Radio City. Each showing was followed by a Q&A, and tickets weren't cheap. Then he did on-demand TV. Eventually, Lions Gate picked it up for home video. The movie apparently turned a profit without spending a dime on marketing.
I wouldn't characterize the movie as Smith's best writing. Not even close, really. But in the end, it doesn't matter because the performances are so strong. Michael Parks is easily the single creepiest movie villain I've seen in years. There really isn't a good guy to speak of (other than the John Goodman character, but the movie isn't really about him), so having a super naughty villain is key. I was also surprised by Kerry Bishé, who I only know as the Zack Braff replacement from Scrubs. She was damn funny in that, which is why I was surprised, because her role wasn't comedy. There's a scene where she's pleading with her family to hide from the feds, and she's so incredibly intense (the screaming child certainly helped).
In the end, I liked it because it had brilliant dialog that was very obviously inspired by Tarantino, and it had components of drama, horror, action and even a little comedy. It wasn't the movie that Smith really described prior to making it, but it was certainly a departure from his typical film.
The one thing that I will say for the script is that it does a nice job bringing up the equally scary parts that religious nuts and the government can play in our society. The Waco disaster is a bit of a distant memory, but the lessons of it seem just as important, 20 years later.
One side note, they used Canon SLR's as some of the B-cameras, which is pretty awesome.