01/27/2011 03:49 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Silent Bob Strikes Back

by Emily Ackerman

This week at Sundance, director Kevin Smith stuck it to the studios and bought his own flick for $20. Indie-filmmaking 2.0? You be the judge.

For months, comedian-turned-indie film crusader Kevin Smith has been amping up the hype about his new horror flick (though many critics are loath to call it such) Red State. Largely via Twitter, Smith boasted that he would auction off the rights to his latest work from the stage at Sundance’s Eccles Auditorium immediately following its premiere.

And up until yesterday, this was still his plan of action:

@ThatKevinSmith: “We've heard a few sight-unseen pre-emptive bids. THIS MOVIE HAS NOT ALREADY BEEN SOLD. After the screening, THEN we'll pick the distributor."

But when the lights came up back up, it was Smith who took the stage and shelled out a scant $20 for the rights to his film. He then proceeded to harangue movie studios for being unjust and too centered on advertising.  

“It’s too much f*&%ing horseshit. I just want to tell f*&%in’ stories,” he said.

So in an effort to do just that and promote what Smith has termed "indie 2.0," the writer-director will be taking his work on the road himself, hoping to make some of the film’s roughly $4 million budget back. The tour is scheduled to begin March 5 at Radio City Music Hall and will headline at Midland Theater in Kansas City one week later.

“In indie film 2.0, we don’t let them sell our movie; we sell our movie ourselves,” Smith said. “What we need to prove is that anyone can release a movie.”

Smith’s indie 2.0 follows three high schoolers who answer an online ad for a gangbang, only to discover they’ve fallen victim to the bait of a sinister Christian fundamentalist group, led by a Fred Phelps--like character, Abin Cooper (Michael Parks). The boys witness the gruesome murder of a gay man before the zealots exact “justice” upon them.

Though the subject matter sparked a lot of buzz (Phelps’ anti-homosexual Westboro Baptist Church protestors clashed outside of Eccles, with defensive high-schoolers singing “I Kissed a Girl”), according to the critics, the film sacrificed story for stunt.

“I don’t care,” said HitFix critic Drew McWeeny. “Smith doesn't even seem to try. The exposition in the film is completely perfunctory, a few quick scenes, and then it's violence, rant, rant, rant, violence, rant, rant.”

CinemaBlend’s Katey Rich took similar issue with Red State’s talkiness, claiming, “With a narrative that jumps all over the place and characters almost uniformly loathsome, the long stretches of dialogue only pile on to make the movie drag even worse.”

Horror hit or not, Smith’s faux-ction has Hollywood abuzz and indie-makers thinking -- is this the filmmaking way of the future? Is paying roughly $4M for distribution rights, then another $20M on marketing, indeed sickening? Or is touring with your film a pretentious pipe dream, an ideal as full of hot air as Smith’s ranting radicals?