The Clovehitch Killer

Studio: IFC Films
Directed by Duncan Skiles

Nov 15, 2018 Web Exclusive
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Duncan Skiles' The Clovehitch Killer is exactly the type of movie the title would suggest. It isn't interested in scaring you or grossing you out. This isn't an excessively violent mystery/horror/thriller, but one that wants to unsettle you with its mood and atmosphere. In some ways it's successful in doing so, if inconsistent throughout.

Tyler (Charlie Plummer) lives in a small town where it's difficult to make a move without everyone knowing. He's a seemingly good kid: quiet, polite, and a Boy Scout from a wholesome family. He comes from a loving but strict Christian family, where his father (Dylan McDermott) is the scoutmaster of his troop.

You don't look at Tyler and assume he has any kind of bad boy inclinations in him, even when he steals the keys to his father's truck to pick up a classmate to go make out on a dark road. In the truck, the girl finds a disturbing pornographic picture and immediately blames Tyler for it. Word quickly spreads and Tyler is branded a pervert, which is a kiss of death for anyone, especially someone in high school.

Friends begin to take his Christian values to task and Tyler truly becomes an outsider. He is drawn to Kassi (Madisen Beaty), who relishes in experiencing school on the fringes. She is obsessed with the story of The Clovehitch Killer, who leaves a rope tied in a clovehitch at the scene of his crimes. Tyler teams up with her to try and solve the identity of the eponymous baddie.

It becomes obvious rather quick where The Clovehitch Killer is going and the movie doesn't really try and keep much hidden from the audience. It's not interested in the "gotcha!" moments so many thrillers lean into but how the characters process the shocking turns within their lives. It might not make for the most compelling watch at times but The Clovehitch Killer attempts to stand apart from movies in its genre, which is always refreshing to see.

Plummer is front-and-center most of the movie and plays wide-eyed innocence well, even if Tyler is a bit one-note for most of the movie. In the film's later acts, we see a transition in the character and Plummer skillfully brings them out without any histrionic flourishes. For a young actor, he is quickly becoming a master of saying so much without saying anything at all (his performance earlier this year in Lean on Pete is worthy of awards recognition it will sadly not get).

The Clovehitch Killer might stratify some genre fans but it's much quieter than you would expect walking in. Sometimes most of what's terrifying lies deep within the silence.

Author rating: 7/10

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