Plot: A small, rural community has had a killer stalking its population, with ten women murdered in the last decade. The maniac is known as The Clovehitch Killer, thanks to the kind of knot used to subdue the women, but whoever is taking these lives remains free and undiscovered. Meanwhile, young boy scout Tyler (Charlie Plummer) lives what seems to be an idyllic existence with his loving family, including his troop master father, Don (Dylan McDermott). Don is a community pillar, not only for his tireless work with the scouts, but his faithful service to his church and it seems most of his activities revolve around helping others. But Tyler’s serene lifestyle is called into question when he is shown a photo of a bound, naked woman found in his father’s truck, uncovered by a girl he was on a date with. While Tyler dismisses his date’s concerns, inside he begins to wonder and reaches out to Kassi (Madisen Beaty), an eccentric young woman who is obsessed with the Clovehitch case. As Tyler and Kassi investigate, will they learn Don is the upstanding citizen he seems to be or will his inner life reveal a much darker, more violent truth?
Entertainment Value: As serial killers are a potent lure for horror stories, we’ve seen a wealth of movies that center on that concept, but few are as grounded and believable as The Clovehitch Killer. This is not a blood soaked, frenetically paced horror movie, but a deliberate, character driven thriller, with a slow burn approach that almost lends a true crime style texture. The narrative isn’t all that original, as the family man might be more of a madman idea has been explored numerous times before, but it makes sense, as a number of real life serial killers fall into that realm. You can also tell The Clovehitch Killer was heavily inspired by the actual BTK Killer, so while this feels familiar, there’s good reason. The well worn ground also has a fresh feel because of the tonal shift to intense thriller, rather than all out slasher movie and the focus on characters, which makes the terror seem all the more realistic. I’m sure some will be let down by the lack of blood and sleaze, not to mention the slow burn pace, but the movie more than compensates and again, this is not your typical serial killer film. I like gore and chaos, but I also like well crafted thrillers and since The Clovehitch Killer is often masterful and always interesting, those crazier elements aren’t missed much. If you have an interest in serial killer cinema, true crime style stories, or tight, well crafted thrillers, The Clovehitch Killer is a must.
As this movie puts emphasis on the characters over traditional horror elements, the cast has to rise to the occasion and across the board, the stars of The Clovehitch Killer answer that call with great performances. Charlie Plummer has the central role and he is quite good here, as a dutiful son who has to explore the potential darkness of “perfect” family and as expected, that means he has to convey a wide scope of reactions and emotions. But he does so with ease and keeps his performance natural, without much melodrama or overacting to speak of. That believable texture is what drives The Clovehitch Killer, so it was crucial for Plummer to hit the mark and he does. While Plummer is good here, it is Dylan McDermott who steals the show and hands in the film’s finest performance, as our All American dad with a possible dark side. This is the kind of role that could easily veer into scene chewing, but that doesn’t happen and as we get a peek inside Don’s inner life, McDermott handles it all with masterful restraint. The cast also includes Madisen Beaty, Samantha Mathis, and Brenna Sherman.
The Disc: The Clovehitch Killer stalks home video in a Blu-ray release from IFC Midnight and Scream Factory. The movie looks fantastic in high definition, with a super clean look and impressive sharpness, as you’d expect from such a new release. The image has great fine detail, so all the small textures pop to life here and I found colors and contrast to be accurate and natural. The movie’s grounded, natural visual design elements shine, so fans should be quite thrilled with this treatment. The extras include a behind the scenes featurette, as well as the film’s trailer.