Imagine Jason Voorhees, Leatherface, and Michael Myers stalked by a busty, young blonde. That idea was the seed for actor/writer/director John Schneider’s new movie "Smothered," which premiered Friday at Mad Monster Party - the three-day horror and sci-fi convention taking place at the University area Hilton.
Schneider, who is best known for his roles as Bo Duke, Smallville's Jonathan Kent, and currently stars in Tyler Perry's "The Haves and the Have Nots" on OWN, wasn’t quite sold on the idea that horror’s most notorious killers would vacation together. Instead he devised a scenario for the actors that have played these seminal characters to take off into the woods in an old Winnebago.
"I was at a horror convention in Dusseldorf, Germany sitting at a bar with a gaggle of horror icons who weren't having a particularly good show," he says sitting in the lounge at the University Hilton Friday afternoon before the convention kick-off. "I said to one of them, 'If I gave you $1000 right now to haunt an RV park and blow off this convention, would you do it?' They said, 'Absolutely.' That clicked in my writer's brain. That's the reason why a bunch of presumed serial killers - actors who play serial killers in movies - would gather together and go camping during a weekend. They'd be perfect prey for some psycho chick who wanted to take out the bad guy."
A week later he'd finished the first draft of the script. He found a backer and by June he and the cast were filming in Louisiana. Sounds fast, but "Smothered" wasn’t without hurdles. Richard Brooker, the "Friday the 13th Part III" actor whose bad convention experience in Germany inspired the script and who Schneider intended to be the film's lead, died on April 8, 2013 (Schneider’s birthday).
Schneider contacted Kane Hodder, the actor and stuntman best known for donning the hockey mask in four "Friday the 13th"films and headlining the "Hatchet" franchise. Schneider knew both Hodder and Brooker as stunt guys on "Dukes of Hazzard." Hodder accepted the starring role and rounded up other horror icons - R.A. Mihailoff ("Texas Chainsaw III)," "Halloween 5’s" Don Shanks, "Devil’s Rejects'" Bill Moseley, and "Christine’s" Malcolm Danare. Louisiana actor Dane Rhodes took on a Roddy Piper-style role when the pro-wrestler and "They Live" star couldn't do it. Most of the actors play versions of themselves.
The gist is these down-on-their-luck horror stars leave a convention similar to Mad Monster Party to haunt an RV park for a weekend for $1000 a piece.
"One of the oddities of 'Smothered' is that it makes sense. It could happen," says Schneider, who has frequented conventions with these actors since his "Smallville" days. "It's not boogeyman in the closet. It's not supernatural. It's not anything horror films of late have been, which I think makes it unique. It’s funny, but it’s not a spoof."
During the Q&A panel with the cast that followed Friday's screening, Shanks revealed: "In 42 years I've never had so much fun doing a movie.” Mihailoff agreed adding that during the 14-day shoot cast members would come to the set even on days they weren't filming.
A horror film with an obscenely buxom psycho who kills with gore and glee may come as a surprise to fans that know Schneider, who cameos in the film, from family-friendly roles on "Dukes," "Smallville," and "Secret Life of the American Teenager." But the admitted horror-fan says "Smothered" is closer to where his interests lie.
"That's actor for hire," he says. "I like psychological drama, dark, complex characters whose life or choices have forced them into a position of doing things that they wouldn't do. And then they realize they enjoy it. I find those characters far more interesting to watch and write. With 'Have and Have Nots' (his character) is far more interesting to play. I've been the good guy long enough."
He’s hoping "Smothered" will lead to more behind-the-camera work.
"When 'Dukes of Hazzard' happened there was a line drawn. There's before 'Dukes'and after 'Dukes.' When 'Smallville' happened there was a line drawn in my career. Before 'Smallville.' After. Those are all John helping to further someone else's dream. This is John working on what he believes he should be doing, which is the same thing I was doing at 8-years-old with a Super 8 camera - telling stories through moving pictures."
He pauses, "I’m more nervous about watching people watch this movie than I've been about anything before."
Check out the trailer for the film, which is R-Rated, here. This is the censored version. There's also a more colorful uncensored trailer on YouTube too. Cast photo from left to right: Amy Brassette, Dane Rhodes, R.A. Mihailoff, Brea Grant, Bill Moseley, Shanna Forrestall, Malcolm Danare, and Kane Hodder. Schneider photo courtesy of IMDB.com.