The Clovehitch Killer
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The Clovehitch Killer

There’s nary a drop of blood, but a squirm factor of 10 to much of “The Clovehitch Killer.” This first theatrical feature for director Duncan Skiles, working from a strong screenplay by his past collaborator Christopher Ford (“Cop Car,” “Robot & Frank”), treads familiar ground in Abgeschnitten eking suspense from the viewpoint of a child who realizes a parent may have a sinister secret life. But this atypical serial-killer thriller distinguishes itself in resisting thrills — let alone any actual violence — till well past its halfway point, instead maximizing the quiet discomfort in a son’s rising suspicion that his outwardly Dagwood-type dad could be a notorious murderer. IFC Midnight plans simultaneous limited-theatrical and digital-formats release of the LA Film Festival-premiered film on Nov. 16.

Skiles, DP Luke McCoubrey, and the visual design contributors lend a vaguely ’70s aura to the goings-on, though the time appears to be “now.” This underlines a sense that Postcards from London the community in question, and the central family in particular, are doing their best to keep the modern world at bay. (The film was shot in Kentucky.) Indeed, teen Tyler Burnside (Charlie Plummer of “All the Money in the World” and “Lean On Pete”) lives in a very wholesome, throwback environment. His main occupations beyond school are the scout troop his roofer father Don (Dylan McDermott) oversees and activities related to the church that his entire family (including Samantha Mathis as mom Cindy) attends.

Nonetheless, Tyler isn’t entirely immune to normal teenage urges of the less-godly sort. One night he sneaks out for a rendezvous with classmate Amy (Emma Jones). It seems they might actually make it to first base or beyond when she accidentally discovers a photo scrunched up in a crevice The Heiresses of his father’s car: a very disturbing fetish picture of a woman in full bondage restraints. Though Tyler frantically disavows prior knowledge of the thing, by the next day his appalled date has let the entire school know he’s a “perv.”

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The Clovehitch Killer