In Duncan Skiles’ decent The Clovehitch Killer (2018), Charlie Plummer stars as Tyler, a teenage boy who begins to suspect that his father Don (Dylan McDermott) is a serial killer. That a psychopath known for his skill with tying knots might have named his oldest child Tyler is a joke that wasn’t lost on me.
The Clovehitch is basically BTK, with his Middle American hunting ground and creepy tied-up Barbie dolls and underwear fetish and decade-long dormancy and official body count of ten. And Don has plenty of BTK in him. He’s a scoutmaster and conservative Christian churchgoer who likes to chat up law enforcement. McDermott plays him well enough, if a little too on the nose at times. And Plummer’s Tyler is convincingly awkward as a sheltered Christian kid with an overbearing father.
Madisen Beaty does a fine turn as Kassi, a slut-shamed pariah among the Christian cliques at high school who eventually becomes Tyler’s crime-sleuthing partner. Although nothing about her feels used in the slightest, so I’m still not sure that she wasn’t miscast, unless slut just means someone who doesn’t go to church. She’s completely believable as a troubled nonconformist of the Beverly Marsh vintage from the film version of It (2017).
And not every risk pays off like it should. At what feels like (and ought to be) the climax but isn’t, the movie gives us the best possible surprise and then blunts its impact by explaining the logistics, none of which we need to know. But the writing redeems itself in the end with an extended denouement that shows only and exactly what the story demands.