The Clovehitch Killer

04/29/2022 06:47

Film: The Clovehitch Killer

Year: 2018

Director: Duncan Skiles

Writer: Christopher Ford

Starring: Dylan McDermott, Charlie Plummer and Samantha Mathis.



This is a movie that I planned to see in the theater, but for whatever reason I couldn’t make the times work. It went on a list of ones to check out eventually. I knew that podcasters I listen to enjoyed this overall. It even made some Top 10 lists for end of year as well. I’m now giving it a watch for the Podcast Under the Stairs’ Summer Series. The synopsis here is a picture-perfect family is shattered when the work of a serial killer hits too close to home.

For this movie, we start with getting narration from our lead character, Tyler Burnside (Charlie Plummer). He is talking about a local serial killer known as ‘The Clovehitch Killer’. The reason they went by this name is they’d leave this knot at the crime scenes as a calling card. The first murder occurred before Tyler was born and they’ve stopped 10 years ago. Each year, they do a memorial for the victims.

Tyler is a boy scout. His father is the head of the troop, Don (Dylan McDermott). We get an interesting interaction where Don seems to be that ‘fun’ dad. He breaks the news to his son that money is tight and they won’t be able to send Tyler to this camp he has his heart set on. What I got from this interaction is things are a bit odd or off. Tyler is coming into adulthood though so it is an awkward time for teens.

That night, Tyler steals his father’s truck to pick up Amy (Emma Jones). They make out and she asks how to recline the seat. When she does, she discovers a pornographic picture of a woman who is in bondage. She believes this truck to belong to him so she thinks he’s into this type of porn. What makes it worse though, they go to the same church. Amy is singing in a band there and she is avoiding Tyler. She told people about what she found and this rumor makes Tyler a bit of an outcast. He can’t convince them of the truth.

Tyler then tries to figure out where this picture came from. He assumes it belongs to his father. It doesn’t make sense though, as they seem like the perfect family with Cindy (Samantha Mathis) as the mother and Susie (Brenna Sherman) who is the younger sister. Tyler makes a discover in the locked shed that belongs to his father. Don knows that Tyler got inside and assumes he found a box of porn and a polaroid picture of ‘Lucky’s Favorite – Nora’.

What Tyler discovered leads him to seeking out the help of Kassi (Madisen Beaty). She’s another outcast who is interested in the Clovehitch Killer case. There is a rumor about her that Billy (Lance Chantiles-Wertz) told Tyler. The two become close as she shows him the evidence from the case that she has. At first, Kassi doesn’t believe, but the deeper they look, the closer they get to the truth of who this serial killer is.

That is where I’ll leave recap of this movie. Where I’m going to start is that we are getting an interesting movie here. While watching this, I did get the vibes that it as using the real serial killer of BTK as the basis. I read up that this isn’t a movie about him, but they’re taking the elements and we’re inspired by him. This includes the fact that Dennis Rader was a scout leader, active member of the church and was killing his victims while carrying on a normal family. These are all aspects to our main character of Don.

That is a not a spoiler though. We get an interesting way to move through this story through the character of Tyler. We suspect Don because his son suspects him. I like that his motivations here at first are to clear his name. I believe that though. As a teenager, you don’t want a reputation. You don’t realize until you get older though that high school doesn’t matter. When you’re there though, it feels like the only thing. The deeper into his discovery, the deeper into depression he goes. The weight of what he is finding weighs on him. Don isn’t stupid and he knows how to manipulate his son and things to say to him. I’ll give credit here to both McDermott and Plummer. The former has a charm and arrogance that I believe him when he is saying things. If you knew him, you couldn’t believe he is doing the things that he is. That is shown when Kassi meets him and doesn’t believe at first. Plummer is naïve and wants to believe his father so that works as well. He’s lived his whole life with him so it couldn’t be.

Before moving away from the story completely, I want to go a bit into how this is edited together. It is straight forward at first. There is a moment though that I’d say mid-way through the second act where we see Don sending Tyler off to camp and his wife as well as daughter off to Cindy’s mother. We see what Don does while they’re gone. We also get to see another side to all of this. I wasn’t expecting it and it was an interesting way to get us to the conclusion.

With all that said, this movie doesn’t have the deepest story. It is more of the characters, especially Don and Tyler. I’ve already delved into the performances from McDermott and Plummer which were good. I like Mathias as the mother here. She commands respect and part of that comes from the values that Don has in the home. Her character is quite interesting in the end. Beaty was good as well. I love her as this young woman with a dark past. She knows the rumors about her going around, but she doesn’t care. She has her sights set on something more important which is good. Other than that, I thought the rest of the cast was fine for what was needed here.

Then the last things to go into would be the cinematography, effects and soundtrack. For the former, it is good. We don’t get anything too different. It is shot well. What I like though is seeing from Don’s point of view. Then shifting to the other side of events. It builds tension to these people not being caught. The effects were fine. This isn’t a movie that needs them. It is more through photographs which allowed them to control more. You get the gist without going too far for mainstream audiences. Other than that, the soundtrack fit for what was needed.

In conclusion here, this is a solid movie for sure. I like taking elements of a real serial killer, incorporating them into this ‘perfect’ father with a picturesque family. It is all about the imagine. He isn’t the focus though. We are following a son that stumbles on to information. It is hard for him to investigate and the burden of the knowledge weighs on him. The acting is good, especially from McDermott and Plummer. It is shot well. We don’t get a lot of effects, but we also don’t need them. Other than that, the soundtrack fit for what was needed. I would say that this is an above average movie just hovering below being good for me.


My Rating: 7.5 out of 10