The Clovehitch Killer

FILM REVIEW: THE CLOVEHITCH KILLER

Released: November 16, 2018
Director: Duncan Skiles
Writer: Christopher Ford

Starring: Dylan McDermott, Charlie Plummer, Samantha Mathis, Madisen Beaty, Brenna Sherman, Lance Chantiles-Wertz, Emma Jones

Stream on Shudder

★★★☆☆

In a refreshing take on the serial killer subgenre and in particular, a very loose interpretation of real life serial killer Dennis Lynn Rader, commonly known as the BTK Killer (Bind, Torture, Kill), director Duncan Skiles is at his best as he invites us to view a slice of Americana without exploiting the issues he depicts.

When Tyler Burnside’s (Charlie Plummer) life is rattled after finding evidence leading to the discovery that his father; the outgoing, community leader Don (Dylan McDermott), may be the notorious Clovehitch killer (named after the telltale knot which he leaves at the location of each victim), he and his outcast friend Kassi (Madisen Beaty) begin a search that may unravel young Tyler’s life to its core.

The plot glides over the small Kentucky town both eerily and quickly. As a drama and suspenseful mystery, The Clovehitch Killer remains consistent until its second act where the POV shifts and the movie becomes a true nightmare.

Without the use of gratuitous blood, Skiles relies on the story’s built-in-suspense to create the mood. In the same mode that Summer of ‘84, perpetuates a feeling of terror as adolescence and innocence is lost, The Clovehitch Killer, at its core is a story about Tyler more than it is about a killer. Strong acting by Plummer, McDermott and cast carries the film more than its actual script.

In choosing to inform us rather than dwell on the facts, Skiles tactfully holds back on sharing his own opinion regarding the tight-knit, Baptist community his characters live in. The Burnside family is devout, somewhat trapped in the 50’s and display a slight awkwardness toward each other, however they are also a loving and outgoing family that possesses a lighthearted side, which shines through.

If you are a person who finds it hard to suspend your disbelief, the middle and end of The Clovehitch Killer may become a little more than you bargained for, especially after its strong first act. But if you can go with the flow, you will find a clever film that is satisfying to the most hardened horror fan. I’m quite frankly surprised this film didn’t get a stronger release.

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