Movies You May Have Missed: The Clovehitch Killer (2018)


“You can never really know someone completely. That’s why it’s the most terrifying thing in the world, really – taking someone on faith, hoping they’ll take you on faith too. It’s such a precarious balance, It’s a wonder we do it at all. And yet…” – Libba Bray

Movies about serial killers, particularly the ones based on real life situations, can be a precarious subject to broach. I think to truly make a successful film on the subject you must find the line that shows what happened without glorification of the sociopathic human being who likely thrives on the recognition. While The Clovehitch Killer is technically fiction it’s based heavily on the crimes of Dennis Rader, infamously known as BTK.

What makes this particular film on the subject so fascinating is the chosen perspective to focus on. In a film about a killer, it’s the son of suspected killer that remains the focus of the film. We’ve seen the movies where the detective chases the killer, and the ones from the killer’s point of view; but what would it be like finding out that the person you’ve entrusted your entire life to is likely a homicidal maniac? Not a wishful thinker hoping to possibly take the leap to end someone’s life but an already established, notorious multiple life snuffer. You’ve loved this person, your own father, given the burden of taking care of and nurturing your humanity only to discover the madness behind his eyes. It would be unthinkable and yet every killer comes from somewhere, from someone. The devastation left in their wake must be insurmountable. A pure, unadulterated modern American nightmare.

To some this may come across as boring but to truly appreciate it is to delve into and embrace the mundanity of it all. The unwavering loyalty to a religion, the dedication of a Boy Scout troop leader, a father of two who makes his living as a privately owned landscaper; normal, unassuming. The perfect cover. Or is it? To find undeniable proof is one thing but to find mysterious, unidentifiable materials is to merely muddy the waters. The son suspects the father but his denial is overwhelming as he searches not just for evidence proving who he believes is the prolific murderer but anything to grasp at saying his father’s innocence is a possibility, however unlikely.

As the son’s reality begins to skew, as it begins to dive into an unimaginable hellscape he wrestles with his suspicions of who is father may be and the idea that he could simply let things be, to forever wonder but never prove for the sake of maintaining family unity. Can he actually look the other way all the while thinking… what if? What he begins to realize however is that while his situation may be a nightmare, he’s not the only one so profoundly altered by such a macabre state of affairs. He meets the ones left behind, left to pick up the pieces of a life taken prematurely, the families of the victims, who are victims of another variety all their own. It is through the motivation of a fellow teen with related motives for finding the killer that pushes the son to hold the metaphorical mirror up to his father, no matter the outcome.

Where the true genius of the story stems from is the time taken to focus on the normal aspect of this family’s life. To portray such ordinary people helps contrast the horrific possibilities of a family plagued with secrets, secrets so dark light begins to reverse in upon itself. There are simply some places devoid of light, in this case it just might be a man sworn to uphold his duties as a father and role model for his children. The betrayal of such a pure promise is unforgivable.

Dylan McDermott plays the father and suspected serial killer. His performance is one of complete normalcy with a twist of awkward possibility. The son’s suspicions are established early making the behavior of his father feel dangerously intimate. McDermott plays his role perfectly, casting simultaneously a shadow of both doubt and criminal intent of the most absurdly horrifying kind. The son, played by Charlie Plummer, acts as the character that we as the audience live vicariously through as this story carries out to its inevitable end. The greatest tragedy of all is that no matter the truth, there seems to be no real chance of healing, no chance of moving on. This is a lose-lose situation every way you look at it.

The slow burn, methodically told, is a story of constant tension and absurdity and awkwardness. He’s a goofy dad with secrets, what those secrets entail just may change everything about this small, reserved town. Then again, paranoia is a real son of a bitch as the son quickly learns. It’s rare that such disturbing material can manifest itself in a way that shows so little. They could have shown the graphic nature of the crimes committed but rather it’s all only spoken of, like a mythical monster hiding in the shadows of story and legend.

Unrated: Disturbing imagery and behavior, some sexual content, R-rated equivalent
Runtime: 109 minutes
After Credits Scene: No
Genre: Drama, Horror, Mystery
Starring: Dylan McDermott, Charlie Plummer, Madisen Beaty, Samantha Mathis
Directed By: Duncan Skiles

Out of 5 Nerdskulls
Story: 5/ Acting: 4.5/ Directing: 4/ Visuals: 3.5
OVERALL: 4 Nerdskulls

Buy to Own: Yes

Check out the trailer below:

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Chase Gifford

"Cinema is the most beautiful fraud in the world"-Jean-Luc Godard