The Clovehitch Killer (2018) was added to Netflix a few months ago. It’s an independent movie many people didn’t hear about when it first came out, and it has gained popularity through word-of-mouth. This article contains plot spoilers for the entire movie. Please discontinue reading if you do not want the ending to be spoiled!
The movie follows a 16-year-old high-school student named Tyler Burnside who lives with his close-knit Christian family in small-town Kentucky. His town’s history is marred by a sadistic murderer, the Clovehitch Killer, who hasn’t struck in over a decade. People believe he is in jail or dead. Tyler and his friend Kassi slowly come to believe that Tyler’s straight-and-narrow father is actually the killer.
Here’s the trailer:
When confronted, Tyler’s father explains away the clues by saying that he discovered Tyler’s uncle, who is now in a coma following a suicide attempt, was the killer. Tyler’s father says since he can’t hurt anyone anymore, he decided to keep the secret. When Tyler’s father allows him to go to Scout leadership camp and the rest of the family is also gone, he takes up his old predatory behaviors, and we see that Tyler’s father really is the Clovehitch Killer. He stalks one woman and eventually breaks into her house and begins to kill her. However, it is revealed that Tyler never left for Scout camp and has been watching his father stalk his victim. Tyler aims a shotgun at his father, but his father convinces him to give up the gun. Tyler’s father takes the gun, aims at Tyler, and pulls the trigger, only to find the gun is not loaded. Tyler, Kassi, and Tyler’s father struggle as the scene ends.
The next scene picks up with Tyler’s family after his father has been “declared missing.” His father’s body is discovered, and his death is thought to be a suicide. It is revealed that Tyler and Kassi staged a scene in the woods where his body was found. Tyler killed his father, and the town never learns the real identity of the Clovehitch Killer.
Writer Christopher Ford was inspired to write the movie after director Duncan Skiles told him about the true-crime case of the BTK strangler, also known as Dennis Rader. Rader terrorized Wichita from 1974 to 1991 while enjoying a reputation as a Boy Scout leader, family man, and vice president of his church congregation. When he was finally caught in 2004, he had begun stalking a woman and intended to start killing again.
In an interview with Long Live the Void, Christoper Ford said that he and Duncan Skiles considered an alternate ending that was somehow even darker than the one we saw:
“There was, in fact, a much different alternate ending where the son can’t decide whether to kill his dad or turn him in….It seems like an impossible choice. So he ends up imprisoning him in the pit under the house, bringing him supplies and keeping him down there for the rest of his life. But we decided that just left too many questions and didn’t feel final enough emotionally.”Christopher Ford
It might sound like a good solution to a 16-year-old who lives at home, but what about when Tyler grows up and wants to go to college or travel or date? He’d be an outcast chained to his serial-killer father forever. The ending we got not only has way fewer potential plot holes, it feels like a reasonable ending for a 16-year-old. Even though I wanted Tyler to turn his father in and not let the murders go unsolved, at least he would be able to move on eventually.
What would you do if you found out one of your parents was responsible for a gruesome unsolved crime?
Think about it while giving this one a watch. The Clovehitch Killer is currently streaming on Netflix.