A Review by
On digital December 3 from Midnight Releasing.
As a member of the White Patriarchy, I realize I am particularly unqualified to review this movie. This movie was not made for me and that's a slightly bitter pill to swallow. Most movies are made to cater to my sensibilities, or at least the sensibilities of a younger me. (I am a member of AARP.) This being the case, I will endeavor to write this as an inclusive critique, but you should keep the limits of my perspective well in mind as we go forward.
As a teenager, I read books on film structure and developed the bad habit of checking my watch as plot points passed on the screen in hopes of better understanding the craft. It's a habit that is hard to break. It is a true cinematic masterpiece that can keep me from looking at my watch, like Lawrence of Arabia or The Shining. I was surprised when I looked at my watch the first time because we were about 40 minutes into this movie. I usually would have checked my watch three times by this point. I wish I could say it was because I was caught up in the story, but alas it was because nothing really happened. What did happen was only implied, too. Nothing was shown, only a character disappeared. If the film structure books are to be believed, this would tell us we are in for a three-hour epic. This movie is only 80 minutes long, the last 7 minutes being an end-credit roll. I, however, allow that I have a cultural handicap and there may well have been significant plot points that I missed due to centuries of White dominance. (I am not being sarcastic or flippant.)
Written and directed by Tonya Pinkins, Red Pill is a tale of an ethnically diverse group of liberals who venture into rural Trump Country for a weekend retreat during the hotly contested election season of 2020. There they find not just outward expressions of White supremacist hatred, but also a pee-drinking White supremacist cult of Karens who lure unsuspecting victims with what are undoubtedly charming AirBnB listings for quaint and quirky country cottages. As a White guy, I kept thinking, “How do they keep from getting horrible reviews?” That turns out to be one of the best twists of the picture.
Unfortunately, these cult members are just caricatures of the real menace you'll find for people of color in rural America. I kept thinking of old vampire movies where somebody dies of an obvious vampire bite, but nobody ever suggests there might be a vampire. Our characters drive through this town towards the AirBnB and see spooky White women all wearing matching black t-shirts with what they even speculate might be some Sanskrit logo on them standing in front of their houses. This isn't sufficient warning to just turn around and head back to the safety of their liberal urban cafés.
The movie makes fun of White people with no sense of obligation to qualify it by pointing out “the good ones”. I have to say, it feels kind of good. It feels like an ever-so-slight relief to my White Guilt. I'm glad to know a Black woman can make a movie like this and that I can't. If I tried to tell a story like this, it would have to be from a perspective that I understand, and I think we've had enough of that for a while.
I have a few notes about the cinematography. The story is told only briefly from the POV of security cameras and trail cameras placed in the house and around the property. These are fairly high-resolution devices so the horizontal scan lines were a bit heavy-handed. And these cameras don't shoot in 2.37:1 aspect ratio. The CGI gets a little cheesy, too. I'm looking at you, column of ants they had to crawl through.
The movie is set in rural Virginia, but it was shot in Upstate New York, not that far from where I now live. As I said, the depiction of White Nationalism is as a caricature of the real thing, but I can tell you, it's out here and it can be terrifying. I hope we see more explorations of this dark world by non-White filmmakers.
The ending of the movie is strangely satisfying. It will be really uncomfortable for actual White supremacists, but only mildly cringy for the Woke White Majority. The rest of the audience may stand and cheer. This movie was not made for White folks and I'd have been inclined to put a little warning somewhere at the beginning to that effect, but do we deserve any such consideration? I defer to the filmmakers on that point and can recommend it to any horror fan, despite the lack of a cemetery. I don't know how you can shoot that much drone photography in rural New York and not pass a cemetery. Maybe I missed it. I'm going to rewind it and look again.