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The Clovehitch Killer (Movie Review)

The Clovehitch Killer (Movie Review)
7 10

PLOT: A shocking revelation turns a teenage boy’s world upside down in this chilling look at the evil that can lurk below even the most wholesome surface. Tyler Burnside (Plummer) is a Boy Scout, a volunteer at his local church, and the dutiful son of an upstanding, community leader dad (McDermott). Only one thing troubles the quiet Kentucky town he lives in: the unsolved murders — in which ten women were brutally tortured and killed by a psychopath known as Clovehitch — that rocked the community more than a decade ago. When Tyler discovers a cache of disturbing images in his father’s possession, he begins to suspect that the man he trusts most in the world may be Clovehitch — and that his deadly rampage may not be over. 

REVIEW: First off, let me just say that from the above plot synopsis and the few things I heard about Duncan Skiles THE CLOVEHITCH KILLER before slapping the screener on my computer screen, the story is inherently meant to bring to mind the crazy case of the BTK killer aka Dennis Rader. Meaning the film asks the seriously creepy question, could an everyday, seemingly helpful family man really be the monster responsible for a series of savage serial murders from years ago? Interesting set-up, right? So does the rest of the film build upon and strengthen this general plot, or does the whole proceeding just play out like a typical serial killer in a smalltown flick? Let's throw on our merit badges, grab our junior-detective kits and find out!

To get into the plot a bit more, the film kicks off on a very intriguing note. Turns out the small town that this film takes place in was once upon a time the killing ground for a savage serial killer who went by the notorious name, you guessed it, The Clove Hitch Killer (from his affinity for a certain kind of knot). I know, a serial killer in a small town movie, seen it right? Yeah, but this film doesn't play out nearly as you might expect and quickly takes a turn and presents an interesting development - all before the opening credits. It turns out that this Clovehitch Killer fellow just stopped killing ten years ago and was never caught. So what happened to the killer and why did he/she just stop a decade ago? Mysteries for days.

From there we're quickly introduced to the film's protagonist, young Christopher Plummer. Plummer is a boy scout, and his troop is lead by his father played by Dylan McDermott. The two make a great team as father and son leaders of their troop, and all seems well and good until one night Plummer sneaks out and goes to make out with his girlfriend. Just as things are getting hot and heavy, his girlfriend looks under the seat and finds a picture of a girl tied up, beaten, and gagged. Needless to say, this ends Plummer's make-out session, but it begins his search into just what the hell is going on and just where the hell that picture came from. Could his loving and lovably lame father be THE Clovehitch Killer in hiding? I guess we'll find out...

Plummer then finds torture-style porn in his father's work shed... along with a polaroid of a girl in real life. Oh, shit. But to go ahead and stop myself there would be a good plan, as to get into the plot any further would ruin the fun of the film: is this loving father and boy scout troop leader and ex-serial killer, or is there an even more sinister mystery at work in the roots of this small town. Directed by Duncan Skiles, the film would have fallen apart quickly if the man behind the camera didn't know how to keep you guessing. Sure this tension is more than helped out by the actors presented here - especially Dylan McDermott - but all the same, Skiles knows when to hold back on reveals until the tension is unbearable at times.

And speaking of the actors on hand here, this is really young Charlie Plummer's show, and he carries the film along with ease and charm that all but guarantee to lead the young actor to a big career over the next few years. Personally, I was not familiar with Plummer before this film, but fans of HBO's Boardwalk Empire may recognize the young actor from his role on that series as Michael Thompson. Anyhow, yes, Charlie Plummer will be a star soon. Count on it. Meanwhile, McDermott is as strong as ever and is the most fun aspect of the film. McDermott is an actor we all knew had some serious chops after starring in the first season of Ryan Murphy's horror anthology series AMERICAN HORROR STORY, but he really shows off a whole new gear here. Do we trust him, do we hate him, do we fear him? Again, mysteries for days.

But all said and done, as good as Skiles' directing is, and as tight as Plummer and McDermott's performances are, THE CLOVEHITCH KILLER wouldn't have added up to much or anything if the screenplay by Christopher Ford hadn't been so stellar. But go figure, Ford's script is top-notch. After all, the man has been the writer behind such neo-classics as CLOWN, The Kevin Bacon (no pun intended) vehicle COP CAR, the underrated ROBOT & FRANK starring Peter Sarsgaard and Frank Langella, and oh, yeah, a little movie you may have heard of called SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING. 

Overall, Duncan Skiles and Christopher Ford's THE CLOVEHITCH KILLER is another solid entry from our buddies over at IFC Midnight. Plummer and McDermott turn in charming and chilling performances and Skiles directs the hell out of Ford's stellar screenplay. In the end, I'm thinking you'll dig the hell out of this flick if these questions intrigue you: "Can a serial killer stop killing?" And more importantly, "What if your father was a secret serial killer?"

Source: AITH

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