Directed By: Dennis Smithers Jr.
Starring: Dennis Smithers Sr., Stephen Martin, MacFarland Martin
Tag line: "Some family legacies...are better left alone!"
Trivia: Writer/director Dennis Smithers Jr. used the pseudonym Reeve Gatlin for his credit as cinematographer
A word of advice: if you ever find yourself in the back woods of Arkansas, watch where you tread!
Keller McGavin (Dennis Smithers Sr.) is a no-nonsense hillbilly who “protects” his land from any and all trespassers. Bottom line: if you take one step onto Keller's property, he'll make damn sure it's the last you ever take. Over the course of two decades, more than 40 people have gone missing in the woods surrounding Keller McGavin's home, and not even the Sheriff (MacFarland Martin) has been able to bring an end to the carnage. When Keller himself is murdered by a trespasser, his son, Lucas (Stephen Martin) has to step up and defend the family's land. But the young man must also deal with a horror his father never experienced; the spirits of those killed by the elder McGavin have returned, and are seeking their revenge.
One of the biggest strengths of A Bothered Conscience is the film's two central characters: Keller McGavin and his son, Lucas. Dennis Smithers Sr. (who looks almost identical to Bill Moseley's Otis Driftwood from The Devil's Rejects) is a flat-out bad ass as Keller McGavin, and even though he isn't the most talented actor, I'd argue he's the perfect one for this role. When it comes to protecting his land, Keller is a cold-blooded killer, and we're privy to more than a few of his violent outbursts (an unlucky school teacher, played by Tina O'Neal, whose only crime was taking wildlife pictures, quickly realizes the error of her ways when she's introduced to the claw end of a hammer). A Bothered Conscience then takes an unexpected turn at about the halfway point, veering off into supernatural territory once Lucas assumes his father's role as protector. A few of these later scenes are damned eerie, and are anchored by the solid performance of Stephen Martin, who successfully conveys the inner turmoil of a deeply troubled young man.
If I had one complaint about the film, it would be its structure; there are many times (especially at the outset) when A Bothered Conscience jumps from kill scene to kill scene with no real rhyme or reason. With so much disjointed violence, none of which is properly set up, I got the feeling I was watching a montage of random kills as opposed to a feature film. Structural deficiencies aside, however, A Bothered Conscience does offer more than its share of shocks, all of which are built around two very disturbing lead characters.