This family drama with a touch of the dark side comes courtesy of writer Christopher Ford and director Duncan Skiles. Here they create a world that feels realistic and like it could be happening in Anytown, USA to any family, something that is what a lot of serial killers seem to come from nowadays. The set-up takes more than its time before the film gets to the meat of its subject. So much so that it feels like it drags on a bit at first, but once acclimated to its rhythm and its pattern, it becomes easy to get into the story and just go through the findings with the lead of Tyler, the teenager trying to find himself in a world that doesn’t feel quite right and finds something else instead. The writing and directing are very deliberate, giving everything its time and its place, every character the time to get established so that their fates matter and what happens as things progress makes sense and makes an impact once all is said and done.
The cast for The Clovehitch Killer is led by young Charlie Plummer as Tyler who does well with his part as a teen who figures out that life is not what he thought it would be and he may have to take things into his own hands. His arc from shy kid at first and more assertive by the end is interesting to watch and Plummer gives it dimension. Playing his father, the suspected killer is an almost unrecognizable Dylan McDermott who disappears in his part and plays him seemingly straight at first and then as more is revealed, his direct approach becomes suspicious and perfect for the film and the part. Stealing the show in many of her scenes is Madisen Beaty as Kassi, a young lady who helps Tyler along the way and has a few secrets of her own. Beaty shows that she can handle a complex part and imbue it with personality while keeping things close to the vest. She’s the shining star in this film even though she not the lead or the central character. Her presence makes her the most interesting part of all here.
The environment these characters and others evolve in comes off dreary and depressing and the cinematography by Luke McCoubrey is fitting for the mood. He creates images that are somber yet bright in a way, kind of like a bright, cloud-covered winter’s day in the middle of nowhere. There’s a greyness to everything here and it fits the film like a glove. The film’s look is also created by production design by Latisha Duarte, art direction by Chad Blevins, set décor by Emily Blevins, and costumes by Jami Villers, all coming together to create this world that connects to each other and gives the viewer a world to dive into and live in for the length of the film.
The Clovehitch Killer is a family drama/investigation film that takes its sweet time to find its groove but once it does, the rest becomes like watching an old show you’ve always loved watching. For those with an interest in serial killers or who grew up loving serial killer stories, this is one of those films that shows an angle rarely approached in film as it comes from the family angle and how a father potentially being serial killer could affect his son, his younger daughter, and his wife as well as those around them and gravitating in their circles. It’s an interesting take that is mellow on the violence and basically bloodless but it doesn’t meant that not parts are brutal or that the psychology of things is not well done as it is here. The Clovehitch Killer is one of those films that take their time but stick around in the brain for a while once it’s been turned off.