The Clovehitch Killer (2018)

IMDB: [UR] 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 is a Boy Scout, a volunteer at his local church, and the dutiful son of an upstanding, community leader dad. 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.
***
Rating: [10] 💚💚💚💚💚💚💚💚💚💚

Wow! What a fantastic movie that took me in directions I didn’t expect. From IFC Midnight is this gem of a murder-mystery crime drama of sorts with some amazing tension. I found myself literally biting my fingers (heh, I quit biting my nails years ago) and screeching curse words to cut the tension. I went into this one expecting to enjoy it but was pretty blown away by how it threw a wrench or two into the mix. When I rate something a 10 it means 1) It’s a favorite that I’ll watch over and over and am sure to recommend AND/OR 2) It added something new and interesting to a genre and surprised me.

What I Loved: 
The pacing of this one takes its time to develop but in a beautiful way. A lot of independant movies – and often IFC movies – will make the world feel very real. Houses, clothing, people, and dialogue feel familiar. In real-life everything moves slow and conversations are much more casual and less “written”. Such is the atmosphere in this movie. So from the start I was pretty hooked by this.

Then, oh boy here comes the tension! I can’t give away ANYTHING up here in the spoil-free zone but you should just watch and hold on to your seat, buddy! (Also I have a spoiler section below but I highly recommend only clicking in after you watch the film!) There were truly moments I was holding my breath, screeching with anxiety, or leaving bite marks on my knuckles. And these scenes are tense simply because there is a normality around them. It’s not set in darkness with strobe lighting and climaxing music. It shows another side of this type of story and the aftermath. The realness creates the discomfort and the acting makes you believe it.

What I Didn’t Love:
Again, a 10/10 movie can still have room for improvement. However there isn’t much I can really knock in this one. If anything it sets you on a path from the start that can seem a little like jumping to a conclusion. I think a bit more setup would have helped me connect some dots as to motive in the early scenes.

Quote:
“I’ll be out of here in two shakes of a lamb’s tail.”

Trope: 
The helpful outcast – of course we befriend the weird girl. Did you think we wouldn’t?

Spoilers: Click to Reveal

Y’ALL! So you better have watched it but now with the freedom of spoilers I can talk about more. Tyler’s dad Don is of course the killer. Tyler and Kassi (his friend) of course investigate. Tyler’s dad Don lies to him when Tyler finds his stash of women’s IDs and other incriminating paraphernalia and claims his uncle Rudy – who is now disabled from a “car crash” – was the killer. Thus Don convinces Tyler that since Rudy can’t hurt anyone they should burn the evidence and keep their family safe from the police and societal backlash.

We’re no suckers and assume Don is lying. How convenient that Uncle Rudy can’t defend himself. And it HURTS to watch the evidence burn in a drum fire. It feels reminiscent of real-life cases like The Golden State Killer. And there it all goes, into flames.

The real-real kicks up when Tyler goes on a trip and Don sends his wife and young daughter away. Now he can pick up his fantasy once again. But the fantasy isn’t enough and he ends up stalking a woman, breaking in, and tying her up. This whole scene is incredibly tense and real. It’s broad daylight. It’s calm. Don even jokes and complains about his back. It’s uncomfortably real – and I’m sure could be triggering so I don’t admonish anyone for not getting through it.

Then as Don has this women all bound up, Tyler comes around the corner with a gun! Turns out he was tracking his dad with Kassi. I literally gasped. It went where I didn’t expect. A fight ensues and Don tries to kill Tyler. It’s that peak of rage that we haven’t seen from Don to his kids – after all he’s been nothing but a loving father and husband.

From there I adore the twist. Instead of calling the police, Tyler and Kassi drag Don out to the woods and make it look like a gun cleaning accident killed Don. The aftermath though! The choice was to destroy their family by revealing his father was this serial killer, or take care of it himself. But of course his family is still crushed after his body is found at the campsite in the woods. The police suspect a suicide. And Tyler must live with this knowledge, the burden of a family without a father, and pretend that everything is fine.

It’s revenge and a sense of justice, but it’s sullied by the realities of taking the law into your own hands to protect your family.