In 2013 John Schneider (“Dukes of Hazzard”, “Smallville”, etc) set up a new film studio in Holden, Louisiana. As the studio’s first film, “Smothered” is the showcase film for John Schneider’s new film studio. It’s an experimental horror/comedy, taking well-known actors from the horror genre and reversing their roles. As is the director’s intention, this film will ultimately be enjoyed the most by horror fans: those most capable of catching all the genre jokes.
“Smothered” could also be enjoyed by fans of black comedy. As mentioned above, there are some wicked jokes in this film that don’t necessitate knowledge of the horror genre. But all in all, they’re the people this film will be most accessible to. They’re the people whom this film is appealing to. And if it succeeds in that capacity, then in the end, this film has succeeded at its primary goal.
In terms of production quality, Smothered is a fine-looking film. Director John Schneider has a serviceable eye, and he brings an offbeat quality to the film, adding in a number of strange, gritty touches where one wouldn’t normally expect them. He’s definitely a director worth watching, as his style is polished, he’ll undoubtedly turn out even better films in the future.
“Smothered” has a non-linear plot. It doesn’t progress in a straight-line. When a story’s events are arranged out of order, it’s usually done to place a strong action ahead of its context to grab the audience’s more immediately, without potentially getting bogged down in explanations. This doesn’t necessarily work to the advantage of “Smothered”.
From a horror angle, this style of composition could serve the narrative, by disorienting the audience. After all, fear mingled with confusion makes for a more emotionally potent experience. And when the audience clears their heads, afterwards, then the film becomes intellectually rewarding, as they can analyze the timing and arrangement.
However the potential horror of the scenario is undercut, a bit, by knowing who the villain is. The film reveals to us, ahead of time, that the killer is a woman, which strips the murders of their suspense. Though a couple of them do sustain interest, through intriguing, ironic twists, such as Trixie’s.
The manner of composition doesn’t necessarily aid from a comedy angle, either, as the humor is mostly reliant on genre jokes and mining irony from the contrast between our characters and their on-screen personas. It’s clear, from the beginning, that our characters are hardly living the high life.
Though exploring that contrast is the arguable high point of the film. The movie’s greatest strength is drama, rather than comedy or horror. The moments where it becomes apparent that our characters are lost in their screen personas, yet unable to profit off them, really do carry an emotional punch. It seems as though the film would’ve been much better, if that’s where the focus had remained.
All in, the greatest strength of “Smothered” Is its comedic potency. Though the editing and compositional style hurt the film from a storytelling perspective, it is a solid showcase for John Schneider’s directorial chops. There’s plenty here for fans of horror comedy, but fans of serious horror might be best served elsewhere.