Impressions: The Clovehitch Killer

This is going to be a fairly controversial Impressions as The Clovehitch Killer has mostly gotten high praise. It’s not as though I don’t understand why it is a pretty solid movie. It makes use of the slow pacing effectively, has tension, is well acted, and features a brilliant performance from Dylan McDermott. All in all, it’s a good movie. My issue comes from the fact that it really had the potential to be a great one.

Fair Warning this will not be a spoiler-free Impressions. There is simply no way to talk about my thoughts on the movie without actually talking about the movie.

The movie mostly follows Tyler who is part of a typical Midwestern Christian family. He goes to church, does well in school, is active in Scouts, all the things a good boy should be. One night he discovers a bondage photo in his dad’s truck and begins investigating why it was there. The idea of this was excellent to me. Tyler is going to be a boy who is close to his father struggling to come to terms with who his father is and what that means.

It’s a story that I haven’t really seen before in a world flooded with serial killer stories, and one that I actually wanted to know. When I hear about the children and family of killers coming to terms with who their father was, I think to myself, this is a different take, this is a story I want to hear. The execution of the movie leaves a lot to be desired.

Instead of an achingly emotional story, what I got was Tyler going from confused to having discovered who his father was in an extremely short period of time. There was also little in the way of emotional struggle on this front as Tyler is rather stiff and the family is repressed and does not appear close at all. The desperation of denial and emotional heartbreak of finding out that your father is one of life’s real-life monsters was utterly lacking.

Tyler seemed to know already who Don was, not specifically, but enough that Don was his number one suspect and acceptance was easy and disappointing for me as a viewer.

Sure Tyler eventually starts to deny it after Don feeds him a story about who the killer was, but after watching Tyler so quickly discover and accept who his father was this development felt awkward rather than like emotional development. It takes almost no time for Tyler to arrive at the conclusion that his dad is a killer, then suddenly no time to reverse on that, if temporarily. All the emotional struggle I was hoping to see from Tyler is absent, he is like a light switch in almost every circumstance, with only a few exceptions.

I did say that movie mostly followed Tyler because we do get a shift towards the end where suddenly Don is in the driver seat. We watch him as he struggles with his need to kill. Much like Tyler’s story this one also left me unsatisfied.

Either story on their own could have been rather compelling. Don’s has been done before, so I can see why they wanted to go in a different direction with this movie, but it still could have been pulled off.

Tyler’s story was ultimately the one I wanted to see, but it was rushed and unfulfilling.

Time devoted solely to one or the other could have had the potential to flesh them out in a more satisfying way instead of two stories feeling half finished. I think the fact there were some excellent moments in both instances only further proves that point. The movie had a lot of potential, and it does have some shining moments. So the fact that it doesn’t fully live up to that is disappointing.

I applaud the movie for trying to do something unique. We are inundated with stories of serial killers and true crime so to put the audience in the child of serial killer’s shoes was a great idea. And that is what ultimately kills me about this movie. I really wanted to love Tyler’s story. I really wanted to watch him struggle with growing suspicion, denial, and then emotional heartbreak over the truth.

The Clovehitch Killer is one of the few stories I can think of that really attempts to tackle the serial killer story from that angle, and man I wanted to love it. Don and Tyler’s relationship had the potential to create a memorable and outstanding movie and one that likely would have become a favorite.

I don’t know if my expectations became too high once I figured out what the movie was trying to do, or if it really was just not fleshed out as I suspect. I do know that it has left me wanting more.

Again, it’s not a bad movie, far from it. I can understand why others enjoyed it and would recommend it to most horror fans. For me though the potentially amazing story of Tyler being washed out left a bad taste in my mouth. I will likely watch the movie again in the future and see if there is more that I perhaps missed, but ultimately while I liked it, I wanted to love it and find that it created an itch I didn’t know that I had.

I don’t want to be too hard on the movie, but it simply doesn’t deliver on a few levels, and I can’t deny that. I do want to see more from those behind this movie, but for now, I am left feeling like it was good, but not good enough.

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