Bothered Conscience, A



Main Cast: Stephen Martin, Dennis Smithers Sr.

Director: Dennis Smithers Jr

So that’s another movie down. Dennis Smithers Jr’s 2006 film A Bothered Conscience tells the “story” of Keller McGavin and his determination to keep poachers off his land. Why do I put quotes around story? Because there’s not much of one here.

We spend the first, oh, 30-40 minutes of the movie watching Keller silently kill anyone he comes across as they have all inadvertently–and on purpose in at least one case–ignored the NO TRESPASSING signs he’s got posted in the woods around his property and trespassed anyway. Then a relative of someone he had murdered previously comes looking for vengeance and Keller’s son Lucas is left to take over as protector of the land. Problem is, Lucas isn’t quite as … strong as ol’ Keller was, and his bothered conscience (get it? It’s the title of the movie. GET IT???) begins to act up and drive Lucas to the brink of madness.

And that’s pretty much your act three, Lucas writhing in fear, jumping at shadows, and basically losing his damn mind as he imagines his father’s victims from a span of 20 years returning from the dead to claim Lucas’s soul. Or something. I don’t know. And in the end, it doesn’t even matter.

I will give writer/director Smithers Jr. credit for making a movie. As mediocre as I think A Bothered Conscience is, it’s still more movie than I’ve ever made. But I do watch a lot of movies and I think I’ve got an idea what makes a successful one. Not to mention, I fancy myself a writer, and would like to think I’ve got a somewhat decent grasp on the concept of story. And when I look at this movie as a whole, sure there’s a point to it, I suppose, in the end, an element that brings it all together. I just don’t think the execution here quite rises to the occasion.

If anything, this feels a lot like an art house movie and yes I’m using the term “art house movie” to mean boring and contemplative. The kind of movie that’s only going to play well in the days before smart phones and social media. I was almost ten minutes in before a single line of dialogue had been spoken (and what few lines were in that scene were sophomoric at best).

Before I got to the end and saw what Smithers Jr was really going for here, there were times I felt like he was just trying to dump every backwoods inbred stereotype he could into his script and I QUICKLY found myself on Instagram or checking the Google news feed while I waited for the next cliché. But again, this is still more movie than I’ve ever made.

And he made it twice.

This 87-minute version of the movie I saw was originally adapted from a shorter, 32-minute version that I wish I could see. Not because I feel like I need as much A Bothered Conscience in my life as I can get, I’m just really curious what was it about that shorter, more condensed version of the story that convinced Smithers Jr he had to expand this one to over twice its original length. I mean … aren’t you the least bit curious? I am. Not enough to try to track the original version down, of course, but if a copy of the DVD fell from the sky and landed on the floor near my desk, I’d eventually watch it. Most likely.

Considering this was the only movie he’s made and the only movie most of the cast have made, I’m going to assume it wasn’t meant to be the start of a long career in filmmaking, but rather an idea Smithers Jr had and he took action to see it through. I respect him for that and will always give credit.

But as a horror movie I’m supposed to recommend or not to other horror fans out there? There’s just not enough substance here for me. It’s a movie. Good, bad? I’m pretty indifferent to this one, really. I wouldn’t recommend it, but if you decide to see it anyway, I wouldn’t try to stop you, either.

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