Movie Review: The Clovehitch Killer (2018)

What did I watch? The Clovehitch Killer, a suspenseful indie thriller.

Is it another tie-in to Cloverfield? No. There were no monsters shoved at the end of this plot. Also it’s CLOVE not CLOVER.

Yeah, but monsters. How many explosions are in the movie? None.

YOU watched a movie with ZERO explosions? YOU? Sigh. The Clovehitch Killer is about a bland teen in the biblebelt who does bland teen things with other bland teens, like going to church and then sneaking away to make out and then spreading rumors about each other over how depraved they are. This becomes a more gossipy than usual problem for our focus, Tyler, when he pushed back the seat for his dad’s truck to score with a pious classmate, who then turns him down when they discover a photo torn from the page of a bondage magazine.

As a result, Tyler, 16, then starts to look into his dad’s shed, while his classmates quietly accuse Tyler of being a total perv. He begins interacting with another local girl Kassi, who is interested in a local unsolved serial killer case. What an amazing coincidence! They start to look at Tyler’s dad, who frequently engages in the easy going midwestern dad thing, while acting half creepy in the process. Or at least his actions might seem weird in retrospect to Tyler, now suspicious of his father.

That’s because Tyler’s dad may be the serial killer, what with the Polaroid pics of victims hidden in his shed. Tyler’s dad goes from lovable tough love kinda Dad who knows that the literal repressed view of the Bible comes with a wink from God Himself. Also his back hurts a lot.

There’s a confrontation in the film between father and son over suspicious, with things deflected. From there, there’s a split narrative from the point of view of the killer, which then merges with the actions of our junior detectives now that the urges of the Clovehitch Killer have been reawakened.

The dad is played by Dylan McDermott, who steals and carries this movie. He is, after all, the central suspect, and the movie lets him play the same guy despite the before and after discovery of his son. Either he’s always been a creep or his son thinks he’s a creep.

I don’t want to go further because the whole POV switch would involve spoilers. I do think that the severity of the crime isn’t something you can wash away and pretend that no one discovers the truth just because you’ve delivered justice upon a loved one. The matter is of a serial killer, one whose actions affected Kassi’s life at an early age. Also, there’s the unlikeliness of the teens solving the crime, even if they think they know who did it, while the reawakened Clovehitch Killer is back on the prowl. Call the cops! That’s one family that might have to move because your dad has to at least answer questions from the police and maybe get a lawyer. If there’s a dozen victims, and you want to do the right thing no matter how close to evil you might be…you still have to do the right thing.

Other themes deal with repression, and the relationship between the word of God and a tight knit religious community. Some of us know it alls might scratch our heads but in many places these churches of the center of activity, including non-religious services, because there’s just not a lot of options for communities like this, due to distance or finances.

It’s also remarkable how a dope like Tyler can plan with Kassi can plan to track a killer. I just feel like he’s a bit of a doofus: you wait until you’re SIXTEEN to try to break into your dad’s Magical Closet Of Mystery? Had he not read any Hardy Boys? Encyclopedia Brown? He’s a Boy Scout, where the inquisitiveness or sense of adventure? Sheesh, Tyler, I’d have solved this case when I was 12. Or, murdered by my serial killer relative when I was 11. You get the idea.

So, was it good overall, or just good because of Dylan McDermott? Overall pretty good, but especially because of “ow my back” McDermott. The first half of the movie is ridiculously slow, and in the face of half confessions and possible confirmations, there’s still half a movie to go. But that’s just their life, one where self-discovery is bolted down by rules and sayings that they repeat but even acknowledge not to understand. Recommended.

This is apparently the (full length) debut film by director Duncan Skiles. He and his team knocked it out of the park as far as set up, tone, and a solid looking film. Great job!

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