“Red Pill” opens with a frenzied scene of cult violence, featuring anonymous, red-clad women assaulting a pregnant black woman. Then it’s a shocking step back in time to greener pastures. In a hat-tipped for “The Shining,” an aerial view captures an SUV winding its way through winding country roads. As painful as the screaming and blood of the opening, if not more, is the in-car conversation where members of a progressive recruiting group, on their way to recruit white female voters, talk nonstop about politics.
Upbeat alternative rock music and a pit stop where the diverse group of friends knock down a racist sign suggest that the filmmaker, Tony-winning actress Tonya Pinkins, has satirical goals. But this shaky political horror film turns painfully serious and gauche to the point of confusion.
The film is set around Halloween, in the days leading up to the 2020 election. Nothing feels right about the Airbnb that Cassandra (Pinkins) and her friends have arranged. It’s full of eerie portraits of animals with gleaming eyes, while in the surrounding neighborhood white women in black uniforms stand out on their lawns.
Before long, the friends—Nick is Jewish, Blake is black, Bobby (Grammy-winning musician Rubén Blades) is Latino—are hunted and some lynched. While Cassandra clearly suspects the violence is racially motivated, the other members don’t understand the obvious.
So this is a B movie camp? Stylized performances and a script seemingly machine-generated make things look crazier than they should be, much like a nightmarish sequence with people dressed in lion costumes straight out of an amateur theater production. But the main point is the film’s trite commentary on America’s political and racial divisions (see also: “The Hunt” from last year), which isn’t funny, scary, or provocative. Just numbing.
Not judged. Running time: 1 hour 27 minutes. Rent or buy on Apple TV, Vudu and other streaming platforms and pay TV operators.