When I sat down to watch this movie I had no idea it was going to tackle the issue of gay rights, religious freedom, and government interference. I was expecting to see a good old horror movie, but this movie has a message to send, and it barely holds back. The way the issues are presented made me think twice about even reviewing it. After thinking about it, a movie like this is made to get a conversation started, so here we go.
Jarod (Kyle Gallner) has been in contact with an older woman online about having sex. He finally gets an invitation from her, but also gets the ok to bring along his two high school buddies, Travis (Michael Angarano), and Billy-Ray (Nicholas Braun). Still not sure exactly how they are all going to have sex with the same woman at the same time, they set off to meet her. However, the problem isn’t how to have sex with her, it is that she belongs to a local religious group that has other plans for them.
I’m not even sure where to begin, so I guess I will discuss how the issues are brought up in some of the more important scenes. Only a few minutes in, the anti-gay side of the story is presented. Abin Cooper (Michael Parks) leads a protest against gay people outside a funeral home, where there is a funeral for a local boy who is gay. There are some pretty powerful signs saying things such as, “Damnation for gays,” and “Anal penetration = eternal damnation.” It isn’t what I expected to see at the beginning of the movie, but certainly grabbed my attention.
The protest causes Jarod to be late for class, and a discussion on what other than the 1st amendment. The students and teacher fill in the audience on a little history of the Cooper family, and their hatred as well. The protest signs followed by the 1st amendment talk immediately got me thinking. While the signs are hateful, they do have the right to protest, and have those feelings. Not only do they have the right to harbor such hate, the movie also points out that they have the right to arm that hatred with guns. While the movie isn’t necessarily a horror film, that is definitely a picture of horror.
Then there are the three boys and their decision to attempt to sleep with a woman at the same time. Now the boys aren’t gay or against gays, but they make it clear they aren’t gay. That is something they think about before the decision to drive over to this woman’s place. Again, this situation makes you think, especially depending on your point of view. Are they gay for getting naked in front of each other in order to have sex with a woman? Surprisingly, Cooper points out that while that might not make them gay, their thoughts and actions make them sinners. The woman even mentions that their intentions are “the Devil’s business.”
All of these things lead to the source of the problem, Abin Cooper. The audience gets an inside look at him, and his preaching inside a small church on his property. Right or wrong, freedom of speech and religion allows him to have these views, and spread them to his followers. As expected, a good portion of his speech is filled with hate for gays. He says things such as, homosexuals are Satan’s tools against God, “God doesn’t love you unless you fear him,” and that gays recruit because they can’t have kids. Agree or not, it is a very interesting speech, that to be honest, scares me to think people can take things to such extremes. Even scarier is that he has these people thinking that getting salvia on you from a gay person could turn you gay.
Speaking of extreme, what these extremists do to gays is just horrible. They wrap them up in plastic to a cross, and put a bullet through their head. Of course, one of the reasons for the plastic is to protect themselves from the salvia. It really makes me think how some people can call themselves religious, and then do things like this in the name of God, or in the name of anyone. Sadly it happens in the real world every day.
Despite disagreeing with his views, I found Cooper to be an intriguing character. It is so easy to hate him because of his views, and what he has put in these people’s heads. However, in his own crazy way, the audience can see some good in him. He loves his family, comforts his daughter when her husband dies, and appears to do well with the children.
When he mentions that he comes from a family of preachers, it made me think of Cotton, the Reverend from “The Last Exorcism.” Both are born from a line of preachers, and have good and bad in them. Both are very good preachers, as they successfully convince their followers to believe whatever it is they are talking about. Cotton knew of his power over people, while Cooper never expresses it, but has to know it. You could argue just how much faith Cotton has in what he preached, but there is no lack of faith from Cooper. Obviously there is a big difference in what they preach about.
Events in the movie eventually lead to a show down between Cooper’s religious group and government agents. To be fair, the religious group is shown to be extremists, and so is the government. Once things break out into an all out gunfight, agent Joseph Keenan (John Goodman) is faced with a tough decision. His superior makes the call to have all the extremists killed. Joseph is uncomfortable with the call, and wants something in writing to protect him from the consequences of mass murder. Government bureaucracy at its finest! He then argues with one of the other agents about it, but they end up going ahead with the assault on the property. Even though this agent disagrees with the call, he goes all out to follow the orders. You could say he is an extremist for the other side.
So now there is the government basically putting an end to these people’s right to freedom of expression, and to bare arms. Is it right to do that to them? Shouldn’t the government protect the law of the land, and its citizens instead of just killing them? What gives them the right? Well, the Patriot Act does of course. Another hot topic over the last 10 years is introduced just before the movie ends. Joseph is interrogated over his decision to break the chain of command, and not kill everyone. In the hearing, it is revealed that the Patriot Act allows the government to kill these type of people just by declaring them terrorist. The two Federal employees show that they could careless about killing these people, and clearly like abusing the power of the Act. Again, another scene that frightens me. I don’t agree with much of what Cooper said, but in this case, he might be making a point when he says “G for Godless, G for government.”
While this movie didn’t really turn out to be a horror movie, it does a fantastic job of pointing out the horror in the real world. It raises plenty of questions, and gives the audience a lot to think about. It brings up issues that many people are faced with every day: the freedom of speech, right to bare arms, government interference, abuse of power, and gay rights. They do a great job of weaving all these issues together, even if some might think it is a bit extreme. Besides the issues, the acting is good, particularly from Parks and Goodman, and there is some blood in the shootout. Even though the movie isn’t what I expected to see, I give it 3 pools of blood.