The Clovehitch Killer
Directed by: Duncan Skiles
Run time: 110 minutes
The Lowdown: The serial killer genre is a fascinating place to learn about the depths of depravity and the blackness of soul that exists deep within some mild-mannered (at least on the outside) people that we call our neighbors, our friends, our co-workers and even our family.
But not nearly enough movies hit the mark when trying to translate this very real human condition from reality to the screen.
And The Clovehitch Killer, while admirable in its all-American presentation and its properly perfect, Ward Cleaver trappings, is yet another try for the bullseye that lands close but not close enough to make it buzz-worthy or a must-see.
If anything, watching The Clovehitch Killer reminds you of just how difficult it is to make a solid serial killer flick, and just how lucky we should feel to have other, better efforts like My Friend Dahmer to obsess over and enjoy.
Both leads, Charlie Plummer and Dylan McDermott, are solid in their respective roles as a young teenaged boy and his outgoing, beloved Boy Scout troop leader dad, and there are a handful of nice, chilling moments, particularly in the third act, which is the film’s strongest point.
Overall, The Clovehitch Killer is good, but not great, but well-deserving of a watch.
The Stuff You Care About:
Hot chicks – Yes.
Nudity – No.
Gore – Surprisingly minimal.
Drug use – No.
Bad Guys/Killers – What if you suspected your Dad was a serial killer?
Buy/Rent – Rent it.
Creed II (Warner Bros., 130 minutes, PG-13, Blu-Ray): True story, Creed was the best Rocky movie since Rocky III.
It was exciting, emotionally satisfying and delivered a wholly unexpected punch of nostalgia wrapped in a shiny new package, namely the chiseled abs of Michael B. Jordan as the son, Adonis, of the late, great Apollo Creed.
If you thought for a second there wouldn’t be a sequel, you should get your head checked. Of course there would be a sequel. This is the indomitable Rocky franchise. Don’t ever count it out.
And there’s a built-in hook already, namely the first act of Rocky IV when Apollo got crushed and killed by the evil Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren).
Taken purely as a blast of 1980’s-era nostalgia, Creed II delivers a knockout whenever it pits Drago, who now manages his aspiring boxer son’s career, against the world-weary Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone).
Every scene with Lundgren and Stallone, whether they’re standing opposite each other glaring, or squaring off in a verbal fisticuffs rematch, is pure, pulpy gold. They’re like two old dragons circling and sizing each other up.
Creed II hits hard to the heart as well. Trust me, your eyes will leak emotion juice and a softball-size lump will well up in your throat when Balboa tells young Adonis about his first match with Drago: When I did get in the ring, Balboa says, that guy broke things in me that ain’t ever been fixed.
Is it the same A-plus caliber surprise as its predecessor? No. It’s not even Rocky II or Rocky III good. But it is on par with Rocky IV, and that’s enough.
Hopefully, this will be the proverbial towel throw from the corner on the franchise, and it’s a well-deserved, well-executed last dance in the ring. After 43 years, it’s time for Balboa to retire, and Creed II allows him to do so with dignity and grace.
The House (Artsploitation Films, 90 minutes, Unrated, DVD): As far as Norwegian imports go, and there are some decidedly awesome films out there that hail from Norway, you could do a lot worse than The House, a World War II-set, paranormal fright-fest that involves two Nazi soldiers, a Norwegian POW and one seriously fucked up house.
Director/co-writer Reinert Kiil piles on the atmosphere, which is a wise decision. The house itself makes for a wonderful supporting character. And the crazy stuff, when it comes, is well executed.
Do It Yourself (Artsploitation Films, 97 minutes, Unrated, DVD): Greece’s answer to a hyper-stylized, Tarantino-esque crime odyssey, Do It Yourself, takes a familiar premise – small-time hoodlum gets roped into a job by the local crime boss and discovers he’s a loose end that must be eliminated – and goes batshit bonkers from there.
It’s brazen, ballsy, ambitious filmmaking that wrings a ton of mileage out of a simple plot, and keeps you guessing throughout.
Kalifornia: Collector’s Edition
Sister Street Fighter Collection
Now on Video-on-Demand:
Level 16 (Dark Sky Films, 102 minutes, Unrated, Video-on-Demand): Blessed be, what hath The Handmaid’s Tale wrought?
Level 16, a new Canadian science-fiction/dystopian thriller, is all about imagining a world where young girls are raised from birth to be subservient to men.
Instead of a formal education, they are subjected to long days watching videos about proper etiquette and how best to please their masters. At night, they are given special “vitamins” and mandated to sleep in drab dormitories on cold cots, each girl waiting patiently and hoping for her turn to get picked to leave the clinical institution they call home.
The main thrust of Level 16 involves Vivien, a reformed mean girl, who follows the advice of a former friend and fake-takes her vitamins, spitting them out when no one is watching.
That night, in horror, Vivien learns what happens while the girls are sleeping, and trust me, it ain’t good.
Level 16 is a taunt, laser-focused glimpse behind the curtain of a world that we will hopefully never know. It’s entertaining but uncomfortable, if that makes sense, and there’s a fairly decent Soylent Green-style twist late in the third act.
Fans of The Handmaid’s Tale and similarly-themed films will love it.
The Cannibal Club (Uncork’d Entertainment, 81 minutes, Unrated, Video-on-Demand): Sex. Gore. Machismo. The Cannibal Club, an offbeat horror-comedy from Brazil, opens strong with a graphic scene involving full-frontal nudity, an axe and bouncing boobs, but it never finds the footing that you would like in a narrative feature.
But there is lots of sex, both straight and gay, lots of nudity and gallons of blood.
The main thrust of the story follows Otavio and Gilda, a wealthy, upper-crust couple with a penchant for human flesh and fatal three-ways.
The couple has a habit of hiring caretakers to watch after their palatial waterfront enclave. Gilda seduces them and Otavio slaughters them. Then they both consume the victim.
But there’s also an interesting socio-economic, real world component to The Cannibal Club that’s never fully explored. Otavio belongs to a secret society of old, rich guys who gather occasionally to watch a performance art execution that’s followed by a banquet of human appetizers and entrées.
Barely a word is spoken about everyone’s proclivity for flesh, and there’s also an odd undercurrent of homophobia throughout.
Between the Trees (Uncork’d Entertainment, 74 minutes, Unrated, Video-on-Demand): Brad Douglas’ Between the Trees is nothing like what you expect, in part, because it spends the better part of its early scenes trying to convince its audience that they’re watching a killer sasquatch flick.
Just to be clear, Between the Trees is not a movie about Bigfoot, no matter how hard Douglas tries to make it so. Even though he sticks four male characters in the woods on a fateful hunting trip and even though he clumsily introduces a mutated creature’s corpse and even more clumsily introduces the mutated beast that birthed the thing that’s now a corpse, this is not a movie about an urban legend lurking in the forest.
What Between the Trees is, is a muddled attempt to build suspense based on a false narrative before the inevitable switcheroo in the third act when all is revealed and what is revealed is pretty lackluster.
And yet, still, even after all the main characters are dead or near death, Between the Trees keeps pushing to be something other than what it really is.
Soldier of War (Uncork’d Entertainment, 83 minutes, Unrated, Video-on-Demand): Here’s how far I made it through Soldier of War, which is also being released as Aux.
Two boys play-fighting in the forest stumble across a bomb shelter. They investigate. Bad things happen.
John Rhys-Davies, clearly having spent all his residuals from both Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Lord of the Rings trilogy, plays a guy sitting in an assisted living facility who keeps flipping out every time the local television news talks about the missing boys in the forest.
Then the killer, the titular Soldier of War, is introduced, but not shown. You just hear him breathing heavy.
I think it’s fair to point out that at this point, in my notes, I wrote: This has exactly nine minutes to get better.
Don’t ask why I arbitrarily picked nine minutes.
Next, and finally, there’s two dimwit cops stumbling about in the woods, looking for clues to do with the boys. One cop gets eviscerated and the other gets decapitated. Only the effects are terrible – we’re talking fake, CGI blood. And, then, when the camera pans out for a wide shot, there’s absolutely zero blood on the ground or spraying from the body.
And that’s about the point that I pulled the plug.
If you happen to roll the dice on Soldier of War, by all means, drop me a note and let me know how it ends.
Stray (Screen Media, 89 minutes, Unrated, Video-on-Demand): Stray, the first feature from long-time short-form director Joe Sill, who also lensed many music videos for Lindsey Stirling, is an odd, dystopian, cyberpunk origin story of a young girl with mysterious powers who has no idea yet that she has such gifts.
It’s part comic book, part coming-of-age, and there are moments that Sill captures that are really cool, but overall, even at a scant 89 minutes, Stray strains the limits of its ambition.
Something (Subspin Productions, 86 minutes, Unrated, Video-on-Demand): Something, the debut feature from writer-director Stephen Portland, starts strong with a young couple experiencing weird phenomenon in their home.
The characters are believable and likable, and there’s an unmistakable sense of impending doom that punctuates each new scene.
Then a creepy shadow shape invades their home. Or does it?
Something really kicks into gear about midway through. It actually becomes more interesting and intense.
And then, it ends, and you’re left sitting on your couch wondering if what you saw was actually real or entirely a delusion.
Tangent Room (Epic Pictures/Dread, 64 minutes, Unrated, Video-on-Demand): Look, if you can’t make a movie that hold my interest for at least an hour, then you shouldn’t be making movies. Period.
Tangent Room, a new sci-fi arrival from Epic Pictures and Dread Central, sticks a handful of brilliant scientists in a room and gives them a deadline to figure out how to avert the destruction of planet Earth.
The score is fantastic, but the pacing and plodding script are mind-numbing. So much so that I fell asleep in far less time than an hour.
Alien Party Crashers (High Octane Pictures, 84 minutes, Unrated, Video-on-Demand): Originally titled Canaries, this odd UK import mashes together time travel and an alien invasion, yet completely forgets to have any fun.
I tried, lord know I tried, to make it far enough to see the actual aliens, but I just couldn’t.