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Film / The Clovehitch Killer

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The Clovehitch Killer is a 2018 thriller and the directorial debut of Duncan Skiles. Starring Charlie Plummer and Dylan McDermott, the film takes place in a small town that was once the site of a series of bizarre murders attributed to the elusive Clovehitch Killer. The movie focuses on Tyler, the eldest son of a devout Christian family, who begins to suspect that the killer may in fact be his father.

Tropes found in this film:

  • Alone with the Psycho: Kassi finds herself alone with Clovehitch. He takes her picture and seems to be angling to add her to his list of victims, but she uses a phone call as an excuse to leave quickly. We later learn that Tyler was also there and made that call.
  • Armored Closet Gay: Implied with Billy. When Tyler starts to try to tell him about "thoughts" that he can't get out of his head, Billy stops him, tells him that "it's a choice," and storms off. Later, a classmate tells Billy that "everyone knows" what he is.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The Clovehitch Killer has been killed, and Tyler and Kassi escape unscathed, but Tyler's family has been broken by his father's disappearance, and he has to maintain his father's lie while secretly knowing the terrible truth.
  • Blatant Lies: Kassi just laughs off Clovehitch's claim that he's engaged in kinky, consensual sex with his latest victim. Even Tyler, who still isn't ready to give up all hope, isn't convinced.
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  • Bondage Is Bad: Tyler finds bondage pornography in his father's truck, and everyone in his Christian social circle is disgusted by it to the point of ostracizing him. Don's obsession with bondage porn is an early sign that he's the Clovehitch Killer, who binds his victims.
  • Churchgoing Villain: Don is a church-going, apparently upright Christian father who once lectures his son Tyler about not doing anything sexually immoral (though he concedes you can't help having thoughts). He turns out to a depraved, cold-blooded serial killer whose clean-cut persona is a façade.
  • Consummate Liar: Don, who lies throughout the film very smoothly and believably and has effectively been living a lie through most of his life.
  • Creepy Basement: Tyler discovers that his father has been converting the crawlspace beneath their house into a murder dungeon.
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  • Creepy Crossdresser: Don is revealed to crossdress in his wife's clothing while taking pictures of himself in bound positions as part of his pre-killing ritual.
  • Fake Relationship: Tyler and Kassi pass as a couple to explain to Tyler's parents why they're hanging out together so often. This is complicated by the fact that Tyler obviously has a crush on Kassi.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Don is a serial killer who is otherwise a very cordial man and goofy father. Even when he's murdering people, he maintains a fairly inoffensive personality. At heart though he's an utterly cold-blooded killer, who tries to murder his own son without hesitation when he deems it necessary.
  • Fiery Red Head: The redheaded Kassi has a forceful personality and is personally trying to catch the Clovehitch Killer.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Early in the film, Don puts Tyler in a full-nelson and playfully wrestles with him, saying that his son is not big enough to overpower him. Later Don overpowers Tyler and starts strangling him.
    • During a coffee break, Don has a conversation with a cop about guns and says that he prefers the Glock Gen 4. When Tyler and Kassi drag him into the forest at the end, they use that exact gun to execute him.
    • Midway through the film, Don tells Tyler that Tyler may think of picking something up and whacking his father over the head, but he'd never do it. In the end, Tyler does not shoot his father, having not even put bullets into the gun, but Kassi does hit Don over the head with a lamp.
  • For Want of a Nail: If Tyler didn't find that bondage magazine cut-out in his father's truck, he would have never done his investigation into the Clovehitch Killer and have suspicions about his father.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: The back of the novel Kassi gives Tyler about Clovehitch reveals more of the killer's M.O. than is related through dialogue. It's mostly derived from the real BTK Killer's M.O.
  • Heroes Want Redheads: Tyler ends up feeling a great deal for the redheaded Kassi.
  • Improvised Weapon: Kassi makes good use of a lamp to knock out Don, saving Tyler from him in the last second.
  • It Works Better with Bullets: Tyler didn't load the gun, so Don's attempt to shoot him doesn't work.
  • Kids Are Cruel: Even among Tyler's church-going crowd, the rumor mill is vicious. His would-be girlfriend says that she told only one person about what she found in his truck and swore her to secrecy, but the whole congregation knows by the next day and call him a "perv." They also spread nasty rumors about Kassi.
  • Make It Look Like an Accident: At the end, Tyler and Kassi execute Don, but successfully make it so that the community at large thinks it was an accident.
  • Malevolent Masked Man: The Clovehitch Killer wears a ski mask as shown in the poster above.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Don is very good at playing the community. He even almost convinces Tyler he's innocent when Tyler catches him almost in the act.
  • Offing the Offspring: Attempted by Don in the climax. Fortunately, Tyler had already removed the bullets from his gun.
  • The Password Is Always "Swordfish": Tyler correctly guesses that the combination of the shed's lock is his sister's date of birth.
  • Patricide: In the end, Tyler, with Kassi's help, puts his father down for good, rather than turn him in to the police.
  • Pay Evil unto Evil: Tyler and Kassi drag a knocked out and bloodied Don in a body bag into the forest and execute him there, not unlike a typical serial killer.
  • The Power of Legacy: Tyler and Kassi choose not to turn in Don to the police and instead secretly execute him, not wanting to disturb the peace of the town and Tyler's family with the revelation that Don's wholesome image hid a depraved serial killer.
  • Red Herring:
    • Don tries to pass off Tyler's catatonic uncle as the killer, but this proves to be a lie.
    • Don's bad back never amounts to anything. He's still able to overpower his son in the climax.
  • The Reveal: While the film dances around it for the first two acts, the final reveal of the Clovehitch Killer's identity is the shot of Don sitting on the family bed with all of his killing tools laid out behind him.
  • Scout-Out: Don is the leader of a local troop of Boy Scouts. Tyler, who is also in the troop, plans to go to leadership camp to make his application to the Air Force stand out among the others.
  • Secret Test of Character: Tyler gives the empty gun to his father to see if his father really would try to kill him. Unfortunately for Tyler, he has no backup plan when Don fails the test.
  • Serial Killer: The title Clovehitch Killer, so named for his calling card of using a clovehitch knot to bind his victims.
  • The Sociopath: As affable and cheery as Don seems, he's an unfeeling, emotionless monster beneath it. When he tries to kill Tyler, he does so without a shred of emotion or regret.
  • Soft-Spoken Sadist: Don always sounds very calm and cool even when he tortures a woman or when is about to shoot his own son.
  • Straight Edge Evil: Don lives a double life in which his public persona is free of vice. Even his murder dungeon is stocked only with cherry cola.
  • Tap on the Head: Kassi gets slammed into a wall, which knocks her completely unconscious for about a minute before she wakes up with no ill effects.
  • The Teetotaler: Implied with Don, who treats drinking cherry cola with his son as a secret indulgence.
  • Trademark Favorite Food: Don loves cherry cola, which he seems to hide from his wife. When Tyler finds a mini-fridge of cherry cola in the secret murder basement beneath the house, it's clear evidence that Don is responsible for what is down there.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: The film poster shows a scene from the film in which the Clovehitch Killer stands over a victim, so we know that the Clovehitch Killer will make an appearance, and thus the catatonic uncle can't be the (only) Clovehitch Killer.
  • Two Dun It: It's implied that Don and his brother were partners in murder, and that the brother's car crash really was a suicide attempt because he couldn't take it anymore. This was the reason why Clovehitch stopped killing for 10 years.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: The Clovehitch Killer is loosely based on the BTK Killer, who was also a Midwestern husband, father and church member who bound his victims, sent taunting messages about his crimes, and went inactive for 10 years before resuming his spree.


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