Knott Too Bad
Tyler Burnside sneaks out of the house, taking his father Don’s work truck, to go pick up a local girl he has a crush on. They’re having a sort of date when the girl finds a weird bondage picture in the truck. Thinking it belongs to Tyler, she freaks out and demands he take her home. This simple discovery sets off a chain of chilling events that eventually leads Tyler to believe his father is the infamous, uncaught serial killer known as the Clovehitch Killer (named after the signature knot he uses). Tyler recruits the local weird girl to help him investigate his father and as the story unfolds, he falls deeper and deeper into an ominous web of lies and deceit.
Clovehitch Killer is a slow-burn mystery of a horror film. It takes its time, revealing nuances and layers to both the characters and the setting. It is by no means full of suspenseful setpieces (although it does have a few), relying instead on character development to grind your guts into the ground. You know pretty much right away that Don (played by Dylan McDermott) is guilty, even though the film does play the “maybe he’s innocent” angle to some early effectiveness, and watching as his son Tyler gets closer and closer to the truth as Don slowly starts to get the itch to kill again, is fairly riveting. If you’re in the mood for more of a character study rather than a stalk and slash, you’ll find some good stuff here.
There’s some interesting subtexts sprinkled throughout the film, such as the bedrock of Christianity that seems to fuel the entire community. Everybody is really into Church, but they’re into the preachy-judgy kind of church. Tyler’s friends all think he is a perv and he becomes an immediate outcast in their holier-than-thou world. Religion is a front and a mask that Don uses to keep himself hidden and safe, as well as a way to keep the family in the dark as to who he really is. The acting is terrific and the unraveling of the mystery is done well. We’re given tidbits and doubts mixed together and they create a pretty effective thriller. My only complaint would be that the movie is probably fifteen minutes too long. What I would cut out is a good question, though, so maybe the running time is just right.
If you’re in the mood for a slow burn, if you want to watch some chilling psychological horror, Clovehitch will scratch your itch. It’s no masterpiece, but it’s a fine little gem, full of great performances and interesting story twists.
Three Stars out of Four
Clovehitch Killer is streaming on Hulu