Teen Uncovers His Father’s Dark Secret in Sinister Thriller ‘The Clovehitch Killer’
Being a teenager is almost always a journey filled with struggles and difficult choices, but nothing can prepare Tyler (Charlie Plummer), a high school student and Boy Scout, for the ordeal that awaits him in the eerie thriller “The Clovehitch Killer.” The small Kentucky town in which Tyler and his family live is rather ordinary, save for the shadow that hangs over it as a result of a string of unsolved murders of women. The unidentified killer known as Clovehitch, whose methods are similar to that of the real-life BTK Killer, went dormant ten years prior, but his victims’ families still seek closure. Except for during the annual memorials, none of this has much of an impact on Tyler. That is, until he commits one of his first rebellious acts, taking out his father’s truck without asking. In the vehicle, he discovers a disturbing photograph, one that compels him to question everything he knows about his dad, Don (Dylan McDermott), a Boy Scout leader and respected member of their church. With help from local outsider Kassi (Madisen Beaty), Tyler works to uncover the truth about Don’s double life and his possible connection to these horrific killings.
Samantha Mathis co-stars as Cindy, Don’s devoted wife who is also a loving and concerned mother to Tyler and his little sister, Susie (Brenna Sherman). Mathis spoke with Entertainment Voice about her role in this film that tackles such sinister subjects. She explained that it was director Duncan Skiles’ bold vision that initially drew her in.
“I was really impressed by the story. I thought it was quite unexpected, an unique coming-of-age story… Granted, it’s really Charlie and Dylan’s movie, but I wanted to be a part of it. There’s always an opportunity to learn from being a part of something you’ve never done before, a character you’ve never played before.”
Even though she plays a pivotal role in the film, Mathis was unprepared for some of the more shocking scenes, so one can imagine the effect that they have on the average viewer.
“After I saw the movie, Duncan far surpassed any hopes or expectations that I had [for him] as a filmmaker. I was so terrified watching the movie that I was texting Duncan and Charlie while I was watching it.”
To prepare for her role, Mathis read up a great deal about the BTK Killer and sociopathic behavior. She cites the non-fiction book “The Sociopath Next Door” by Martha Stout as being particularly helpful when it came to understanding the dynamic between Cindy and Don.
“I think that he was very good at managing her, and I don’t think that she knew [about his double life] on the surface, but I think that we also, as human beings in relationships, can turn a blind eye when we love someone and we don’t want to look at any myriad of problems. It can be as simple of having a partner who’s an alcoholic and being like, ‘Oh, God, if I really deal with that, and if I really look at that being a problem, then I’m going to have to change my life.’ I already had some understanding of what it is to have a sociopath in your life, so I did some research into that landscape.”
“The Clovehitch Killer” is filled with plenty of disturbing scenes, ones that are made all the more creepy not only by choices made by the actors, but also because of Skiles’ naturalistic filmmaking style. However, the film isn’t all frights. There’s also the friendship between Tyler and Kassi, which serves as the film’s emotional core. Kassi, who has been forced to grow up too fast, helps her new bud mature as he navigates some harsh realities.
“I was deeply moved by the relationship between Charlie and the young woman, Madisen,” said Mathis. “I think there’s a really heartbreaking honesty. A young woman whose innocence has been shattered for a long time has come to terms with how the world will break your heart. I thought that their scenes were so delicately wrote… without being super-condescending.”
There relationships between the members of Tyler’s family are also important here. Mathis and the three other actors who make up the household have genuine chemistry that make the family feel authentic, not just a cover for Don’s double life. The small town location also serves to amplify the warmth in multiple scenes.
“I loved being a part of that community. We were welcome with open arms into that church. I feel like that’s the fabric, that’s the backdrop of the movie. Throwing myself into creating a family dynamic with my daughter, and having those sort of simple, slice-of-life human moments together, I think was what the story needs in order go the way that it does, so I really enjoyed those simple moments of us playing cards and getting the little girl on my lap…”
All of Tyler’s digging leads to a powerful finale, one that involves his having to make his first adult decision.
“I think he did what he thought was best for his family,” said Mathis of Tyler’s choice. “In some ways, it’s a very much a grown-up decision, and that’s why I say it’s really a coming-of-age story. It’s a young man having his innocence destroyed.”
“The Clovehitch Killer” premieres Nov. 16 in select theaters and on VOD.