Director: Duncan Skiles
Writer: Christopher Ford
Stars: Charlie Plummer, Dylan McDermott, Samantha Mathis, Madisen Beaty, Brenna Sherman
Running Time: 1h 49m
Genres: Drama, Horror, Mystery, Thriller
Release: Nov 16, 2018
After Tyler finds a cache of disturbing images in his father’s possession, he begins to suspect that the man he trusts most in the world may be responsible for a series of unsolved murders.
The Clovehitch Killer is a coming-of-age tale that has the potential of bastardising a boy’s teenage years. If you are going into this thinking there’s going to be a shed ton of gore or killing, you’d be dead wrong (see what I did there) Duncan Skiles makes it abundantly clear from the start who the killer is so the guesswork is taken away immediately, so he creates tension elsewhere. An atmosphere with eerie woods, deserted roads, and a crackling undertone of what is to come. He focuses heavily on the quiet suburban town in Kentucky, rich in its Christian beliefs and values. How on earth can the killer be living amongst them? They all care and enrich each other’s lives Need a hand carrying the shopping in? Don’t question it. Need a hand changing that tyre? Don’t question it. Need someone killed? Don’t think twice.
The movie opens with the killer being inactive for a decade. However, the community has not forgotten and holds a memorial for the slain women. Tyler (Charlie Plummer) lives with his sister, quiet and reserved mother (Samantha Mathis), and scout leader father (Dylan McDermott). After finding some rather questionable pornography that belongs to his father, Tyler starts to get suspicious. Is this the kind of thing that gets father going? Is he not all he seems to be? What if he isn’t all Christian values and helping thy neighbour? What if he is a dangerous psychopath?
With the help of his friend Kassi (Madisen Beaty) who has her own motives for researching The Clovehitch Killer they look at the evidence and break into his father’s locked shed and find some damning evidence. Why does his father have polaroids in a box and a diagram detailing “the wheel of pain?”
Although not horror this thriller is one of the most understated films that I’ve had the pleasure of viewing. The acting is impactful and brings the right level of tension. I particularly enjoyed the investigation NOT of the killer’s psyche but more of the toxicity of small towns plagued by religious rot. McDermott’s performance left me unsettled, glancing over my shoulder way too many times, and has this sense of intensity that is unnerving. Tyler is faced with the difficult task of uncovering the truth but feels conflicted that it will drag his entire family through the mud. His mother likely being hit the hardest.
“Your father has his own hobbies” Tyler’s mother utters. Christ, those hobbies are so depraved and so utterly evil that it begs the question – is this what happens when strict Christian values lead to acting on obsessive compulsions? He wants to believe in his father, but the evidence can’t be ignored.