Screenwriter Christopher Ford (Clown [2014) never attempts to hide who “The Clovehitch Killer” is, nor a cover-up who he’s basing the character from, which is the real-life case of Dennis ‘BTK’ Rader, hence blending a film into drama, horror, mystery and more thriller. Director Duncan Skiles tries to use more horror into the content, as it speaks about a serial killer, however these all become incredible minor to the overall scope of the story, which revolves around the son, set in Kentucky, and avoids any re-telling of BTK rather looking at father-son bonding and morals. I had heard about this movie for promotion cycle and learned more about when I reviewed the film Boarding School (2018), and saw that IFC Midnight might be releasing it, after all it appeared in the same vein of the terrific Summer of 84 (2018), with emphasis on whodunit and where the guilt lies. The film summarizes as a teenage son’s discovery of his father’s hobbies and how to resolve them as either bizarre or very suspicious, his problems go against his Christian value system, honor thy father, he’s the head, the father, and the other side though shall not kill.
Taking place in the town of Clarksville, a memorial to the 10 known victims of a serial murderer who named himself The Clovehitch Killer, gathered amongst the crowd is Don Burnside (Dylan McDermott (American Horror Story: Season 1 ), he’s an independent carpenter, Boy Scout troop leader, and a church-going family man, with his supportive wife Cindy (Samantha Mathis (American Psycho ) concerned about their children young Susie (Brenna Sherman) and meek, dedicated Boy Scout son Tyler (Charlie Plummer (Dark Was the Night ). The ideal perfect family who appear happy and normal, caring for a disabled Uncle Rudy (Mark A. Nash (Proxy ) ignored in a car accident nearly 10-years ago. One night the carnal urges strike Tyler and he meets, Amy (Emma Jones) he adores, claiming his father’s truck is his, just when the moment hits and she takes the bold move of wanting her seat to go back and down, she finds a bondage photo, and asserts its Tyler’s. However the audience knows it’s not, but she accuses him, and demands to get her home, in a few days the rumors mount he’s isolated because of them. His zealot buddy Billy (Lance Chantiles-Wertz) refuses to listen or talk to him, as that mere association taints higher noble values. Ostracized by classmates, he searches for answers about the picture and looking at his father, finding his private porn stash, seeking someone to confide in all leading him to Clovehitch-obsessed Kassi (Madisen Beaty) a vegan, atheist and girl with a rumored past, a slutty past taking on 5-guys from the football team a curious outsider in an inclusive community. A curious subtext, whether or not it’s true a woman engages she’s a slut and immoral, but if a boy/guy partakes in the acts then he’s a champion or a stud born. The two partake on an investigation into the identity of the town’s mysterious killer. From the second half of the movie, it becomes Tyler’s vehicle of discovering secrets, and solving his father’s problem while condemning others, and muddled in the mess of morals.
An interesting subtext goes on in the movie, which I believe some incorrectly overlook or dismiss. First, Don doesn’t appear as a serial killer, living the normal life, but if the real-life killers of Ted Bundy and BTK told society anything, monsters hide in plain sight, while emphasized in Summer of 84, serial killers live next door to someone. Don’s hides behind his brother, before his son, wife and everyone, a guilt of his crimes or fascination with his passion for bondage sex, frowned upon by society and the church. As stated, the movie focuses on Tyler, his relationship with his father, concern for his mother, worthy of the church’s absolute teachings, honor thy parents, all sex thoughts evil, while the Tyler fellow friends begin a campaign against him, calling him a perv, seems they omitted not judge, ye shall be judged. (Matthew 7:2) The entire movie more about emotional consequences than just rampaging killing.
First thing about the movie, it needs a little tightening, perhaps 10-minutes, it just bogs down too much with a runtime of 109-minutes, otherwise a fairly interesting thriller and not much on horror (unless one tries to link the serial killer and fetish items or scenes) otherwise the story hits those markers. Duncan’s movie never achieves disturbing factor, aside for a hint of the basement scene, honestly I don’t think the filmmaker sought that aspect. The film appears too straight laced, almost a goody-two-shoes, it focuses less on the father and points to Tyler’s mentality and how he’s going to handle the situation while respecting his mother and church. Hence the film plays in different vein instead the cliché storylines focus primarily on serial killers and not their families. Many times, one asks how does the family handle the reveal, never shown or explored.
The Clovehitch Killer, is truly dedicated to Tyler, a teenage boy, with his own desires, and conflicted between so many adult issues, afraid of the personal feelings he has worried about dishonoring his parents, the church teachings, and the Boy Scouts. So often horror fans view the common serial killer stories and movies, exploring their deviant minds, that one forgets to step back and observe the fracture of innocence on the family instead of carnage, and exploration of emotionally charged situations, a fall from grace and the impact.
IMDb Rating: 6.4/10
Baron’s Rating: 6.5/10