|THE CLOVEHITCH KILLER (director: Duncan Skiles; screenwriter: Christopher Ford; cinematographer: Luke McCoubrey; editor: Megan Brooks, Andrew Hasse; music: Matt Veligdan; cast: Charlie Plummer (Tyler Burnside), Dylan McDermott (Don Burnside), Samantha Mathis (Cindy), Madisen Beaty (Kassi), Emma Jones (Amy), Brenna Sherman (Susie), Lance Chantiles-Wertz (Billy); Runtime: 109; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Andrew Kortschak, Cody Ryder, Walter Kortschak; IFC Midnight; 2018)|
|"Though bloodless it keeps you
squirming in your seat."
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
An engrossing but pointless slow-burner serial murder mystery, with a questionable finish that veers from the way the story is told at first and offers none of the genre's requirements for gore. But is capably directed by Duncan Skiles ("Reggie Watts: Why Shit So Crazy?") and cleverly written by his regular collaborator Christopher Ford. Though bloodless it keeps you squirming in your seat. It's told from the POV of a teen-ager who eventually realizes a parent may have a sinister secret life.
In the rural conformist Bible-Belt community in Kentucky, for the last ten years the town recognizes that ten women were slain by the Clovehitch Killer (named after a signature type of rope knot used in the killings) and the killer is still free. The shy teen, Tyler Burnside (Charlie Plummer), is a Boy Scout in the scout troop his jovial roofer father Don (Dylan McDermott) leads and most of his activities are related to the church that his all-American family attends--including his home-body mother Cindy (Samantha Mathis) and his little sister Susie (Brenna Sherman).
While Charlie's on a date with his school-mate choir singer Amy (Emma Jones) and is making-out with her in his father's truck, she finds a picture of a woman in full bondage restraints and, even after Charlie denies that's his father's, the next day Amy tells her classmates that Mr. Burnside is a “perv.” It should be noted that the picture of the woman in bondage restraints is the trademark of the kinky serial killer.
When the town takes what Amy says as gospel and start to suspect Tyler's unblemished father, the kid asks the town's sole unconventional citizen, who has obsessed over finding the killer, Kassi (Madisen Beaty), to help him investigate.
When rummaging through Don's hidden past (like in the backyard padlocked tool shed) his dad's so-called normalcy is dispelled by finding so many sex torture pictures. The film now retraces its earlier family portrait of Don to let us see how we were mislead by him, as things shift direction so much it becomes hard to believe this happens in one picture.
Despite the excellent performances by Charlie Plummer and Dylan McDermott, the change of pace in the storytelling didn't tell me much more about such deviants I didn't know before--who may live normal lives but have a hidden dangerous dark side. If you're going to be taken in by the film, it's because it sets such an unsettling mood you can get mesmerized by its damning character study.
REVIEWED ON 11/29/2018 GRADE: B-
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
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