Written and directed by John Schneider (“The Dukes of Hazzard”), Smothered is a kooky horror comedy bursting with blood-soaked cameos from the genre’s greatest icons such as Kane Hodder, Bill Moseley, R. A. Mihailoff, Malcolm Danare, and Don Shanks.
When the bogeymen find themselves on the other side of the blade – wielded by a big-busted blonde, no less – they pull out all the stops.
We got a chance to chat with Schneider one to one, and here’s what he had to say about cinematically killing these guys off one by one. And be sure to check back tomorrow for my partner in crime, Doctor Gash’s, follow-up interview.
Dread Central: You’ve assembled a really great cast for Smothered. Can you talk about how you approached them to play parodies of horror villains, and what some of the reactions were?
John Schneider: I’ve known Kane and Malcolm for years. First I went to Richard Brooker. Sadly, he passed away before I finished the first draft of the script. That’s when I went to Kane. He read it and got right back to me. “Shit, John… It’s like you’ve been following us around. The relationships are exactly right.” That’s when I knew I had something special.
DC: How’d you come up with the idea? And how did it evolve throughout writing, shooting, and finally editing?
JS: A friend of mine and I were drinking years ago… like 30 years ago… and he said, “Wouldn’t it be cool to get Ted Bundy and Son of Sam and a bunch of serial killers together in a movie where they go camping and get killed one at a time by the sexy college co-ed?” I thought that was a cool idea but that there was no realistic catalyst/hook to cause a group of serial killers to go camping believably. 30 years later… in Dusseldorf, I’m sitting at the bar with several horror icons who had had a bad day selling. “If someone would give you a grand a piece to go haunt a trailer park right now, would you do it?” says me. They all said yes. That’s when I knew I had the catalyst/hook. I finished my beer, went up to the room, and started writing.
By the time I got back to Louisiana, I had it about half done. Much of the heart in the movie happened on the set. I thought it was important for the audience to not only know the characters because of their body of work, but to also identify with their plight, life, and ultimately, their death. Each of the actors did something during the filming that made a light go off in my brain that said, “That’s it! Malcolm wants to be liked. Trixie needs to be appreciated as a ballet dancer. Don needs to really be respected. Randy wants someone to know that he’s a terrific Shakespearean actor, etc. The actors really came up with that layer and it’s, honestly, my favorite part of the movie.
The only thing that changed in the editing process was the decision to show it out of order and use the little “bumpers” to keep people wondering where the pieces fit. That actually came as a result of people saying that they hated it that one of our most lovable icons dies so soon. Once I made one time jump, I had to make several more or it would seem more like a wart than a legitimate storytelling device.
DC: Most folks are going to talk about the male horror icons, but can you tell us about the ladies in the cast?
JS: Brea, Amy, and Shanna did an amazing job. It’s hard to be pretty and evil. Brea does that perfectly. You can see that there is something a little “off” behind those pretty eyes. That’s hard to do. Amy/Agness is actually a very pretty woman who is one year older than the girl playing her daughter. That shit is hard to do! Trixie is so multi-layered… confident, talented, needy, broken, den-motherish… Shanna moves from each emotion without a single seam or glitch. I was amazed at what she did every time she did it.
DC: Did Brea Grant have input on her character? What did she think about the prosthetics?
JS: Brea is what we old folks call a real “trooper.” She had to come in a few days early to get a cast made of her torso so the boobs that were actually bigger than her head would fit properly. Never a complaint. Not even when she had to empty them of the accumulated sweat that had gathered behind them! I believe in a script being a fairly good road map to a character. In this case, Brea and I talked about what had damaged DD and how it affected her view of the icons, her family, and the world. Then I stepped back and watched her create this amazingly innocent, tragic, evil, beautiful girl.
DC: When it comes to the horror aspects of the film, I’m sure it was fun to come up with inventive ways to kill the “killers” – what’s your favorite death scene?
JS: R.A.’s death is my favorite. It’s pure cinema. There are more than 50 cuts in that sequence, and we never actually had any of them on the same set at the same time. Think about it… we are below the ground with the cinder block and jack… at ground level with the bottom of the pole… inside Thelma with R.A. and Fritter and also up on the roof. None of that was shot in sequence. It’s all an illusion of continuity created by sticking to a pretty good road map to begin with. I also don’t think any film has quite done that sequence before. It all makes sense. It “could” happen!
DC: When I watched the movie, I didn’t really ‘get’ the structuring style… would you explain the reason behind the unusual editing choices?
JS: As an audience member, I like a puzzle. I like to feel as if I am involved with the story in some way. Telling this story out of sequence is an experiment for me. I believe that, since the structure is all actually there, that the story can be told in any order and actually make sense. Doing it this way also allows me to kill people when I want and be able to bring them back into the story. I find it very effective in films (take Old Yeller) to see a character alive and vibrant after I know that they have died in the story. It’s a manipulation to be sure but one I think is effective. BTW… I did not like this manipulation in Pulp Fiction. Personally, I think it was used to spice up an otherwise weak story. But it worked great. It was a puzzle and we, the audience, felt smart for having put it together.
DC: Would you be into making a Smothered sequel?
JS: Smothered is actually the second film in a trilogy. There are questions asked in it (intentionally) that need to be answered like: 1-Why does DD think all the horror guys want everybody dead? 2-What the hell was it with Sid (her father) at the window? 3-Since Carl was her fiance, why did she kill him too? 4-Am I crazy… or does DD call Agness “Big Sister” in the very end? If so… what the hell is that all about? 5-Why does Agness say, “You know I hate this beach, girl” at the end? What happened there?
The prequel is called Suffered. It’s the story of how DD got so screwed up in the first place. The sequel is called Striper. It’s the story of how Kane took the worst experience of his life and turned it not only into a new horror icon without a mask… but also managed to get his “shit turd of a screenplay” produced and make the year’s biggest horror sensation!
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