Title: The Clovehitch Killer
Director: Duncan Skiles
Starring: Charlie Plummer, Dylan McDermott, Samantha Mathis
Runtime: 1 Hour 49 Minutes
What It Is: Tyler’s a good kid, a boy scout, raised by a poor but happy family in a small, religious town. But when he finds his dad, Don (Dylan McDermott), has disturbing pornography hidden in the shed, he starts to fear that his dad might be Clovehitch, an infamous serial killer that was never caught. Tyler (Charlie Plummer) teams up with Kassi (Madisen Beaty), a teenage outcast who’s morbidly obsessed with the Clovehitch legend, to discover the truth in time to save his family.
What We Think: Drawing from real-world boogeymen, The Clovehitch Killer treats a clichéd premise – the serial killer burrowed deep into the cozy disguise of flyover suburbia – with an admirable, unfussy sombreness. Director Duncan Skiles sketches an uncommonly genuine portrait of whitebread evangelical family life around teenager Tyler (Charlie Plummer), whose discovery of an unsettling clue triggers a consuming paranoia that his square, blue-collar father (Dylan McDermott) is the killer who once stalked their small Kentucky town. There’s a measured, unassuming quality to Skiles’ filmmaking here that complements the veneer of Middle American normalcy – the family game nights and the scouting food drives – which the murderer uses as his hunting blind.
Our Grade: D-, Sadly, the director and screenwriter Christopher Ford never justify their earnest, weighty approach to the story or their late-game structural shenanigans with any unanticipated swerves or thematic depth. This film is too unsurprising to be a compelling thriller, but too hollow to be taken seriously as a critique of middle-class rot.