The Clovehitch Killer (2018) starring Dylan McDermott, Samantha Mathis and Charlie Plummer. Directed by Duncan Skiles.
Earlier this year horror hounds were treated to a nice little movie called Summer of ’84, which followed a group of teenagers who suspected one of their neighbours was a serial killer who was currently terrifying the town. I really enjoyed that movie, so when I heard about The Clovehitch Killer, a movie about a kid who suspects his father is a serial killer, I was immediately sold.
The movie opens with typical awkward teen Tyler sitting in his dad’s car about to make out with his girl. As the girl reaches down to pull the seat back she finds a crumpled bondage picture ripped from a magazine. Tyler’s protests of innocence fall on deaf ears and his next few days at school become a living hell as word gets around about the ‘perv’ in school.
Tyler’s shame turns to horror as he finds his dad’s secret stash of bondage magazines along with a collection of disturbing polaroids of females in bondage. Why is this such a big deal? Turns out the town was terrorized a decade ago by a serial killer whose victims were tied up bondage style before being murdered. For unknown reasons the killings mysteriously stopped and the killer is still at large.
Tyler befriends another outcast from school, Kassi, who Tyler remembers for having more than a passing interest in all things serial killer. The pair strike up a friendship and their disbelief that Tyler’s all American, family values dad could actually be The Clovehitch Killer begins to falter as dark, disturbing things about the man begin to reveal themselves.
The first half of the movie is happy to be a quiet, slow burn, focussing on Tyler’s discomfort and growing concern as he starts second guessing everything he thought he knew about his father. The second half really kicks it up as the dark side of his father reveals itself. The film is smart in not giving away too much too soon and we, just like Tyler, try to rationalise things away even up to the point where we can be left in absolutely no doubt as to who Tyler’s father really is.
The main strength of the movie is of course, dad, played by Dylan McDermott, whose wholesome, church going, scout leader, unassuming portrayal makes it all the more dark and twisted as we see his struggle. One of the most telling scenes in the movie is when he packs his wife and kids off to stay with the in-laws so he can indulge himself in his fetishes and how we see him fight a losing battle as the fantasy is not enough, he needs the real thing and a chance encounter with a random soccer mom at a store is the tipping point, and from then on the family man is gone and the Clovehitch Killer is now in the driving seat.
Of course there’s a showdown between Tyler, Kassi and the father and we are treated to a great ‘re-wind’ where we get to see the same events but from Tyler’s perspective.
Even though the film has a few cell-phones from circa 2005 there’s no intrusion of technology in the movie at all and the film could have taken place in the mid-eighties and I mean the real eighties, not the post-Stranger Things eighties where everything from the clothes to the music is just cliché overkill. The lack of technology further reinforces the story of simple, wholesome people living in a simple, wholesome town.
One of the best movies I’ve seen this year.
Steve Barnard lurks in the Stygian swamps of South America. He divides his time between scouring ancient jungles for the lost City of the Monkey Children and watching horror movies. Literally any horror movie he can get his hands on. Especially Japanese ones.