Is ‘The Clovehitch Killer’ based on real events? Here’s what its director told us

Dylan McDermott in The Clovehitch Killer

The Clovehitch Killer’s director Duncan Skiles has admitted that his serial killer thriller is based on real events and an actual serial killer. 

But rather than going into minute details about the process of turning this individual’s horrific events into a movie, Skiles instead refused to give the culprit the attention he obviously craves. 

“He was a community leader and a Boy Scout guide,” was all that Skiles would say of the inspiration for Dylan McDermott’s Don in “The Clovehitch Killer.”

He then quickly added. “I just prefer not to call him out and give him any attention because I know he likes that. Like they all do. It is pretty easy to figure out though.”

So easy in fact that I’ll reveal that Don is based on Dennis Rader, who killed 10 people in the Wichita, Kansas, area between 1974 and 1991. However, I’ll leave it to you to go out and discover any further details on his gruesome crimes. 

Not all of “The Clovehitch Killer” is based on him, though, as Skiles admitted to using him as a springboard to create the story and character he wanted.

“He had two kids. But when he was caught nobody in his family knew. I thought it would be very interesting for one of the kids to find out before he was caught.”

“I wanted to do something from the perspective of someone who is not a serial killer but is closely related to one.”

But what did Skiles want to to do with “The Clovehitch Killer” that he hadn’t seen before in other serial killer movies?

“I have never really seen the combination of a serial killer as a goofy dad. I have never seen anything that treated it in a very mundane way.”

“I didn’t want it to feel like a movie a lot of the time. I wanted to take a mundane approach. There are certainly movies I took inspiration from, but I wanted to do something that was committed to that idea surrounding a serial killer story.”

“Also, I wanted to make a movie that was scary and disturbing. Because most movies I don’t find to be disturbing. I wanted to capture the feeling of mundaneness that surrounded these things I was reading.”

In order to achieve Skiles’ vision McDermott went into method mode to play the sociopathic Don, transforming himself for the role by using a prosthetic belly, shaving his hairline, graying his temple, and using the same accent and posture even when the camera’s weren’t rolling. 

Everyone in the cast and crew also had to call him Don, too. 

The level of meticulous detail in both McDermott’s performance and Skiles’ direction helps to makes “The Clovehitch Killer” an increasingly disturbing and uniquely unsettling thriller. So much so that Skiles is hopeful that the film can have a lasting impact on those that see it. 

“I hope it makes people more alert to the existence of sociopaths. That is something that I have read up on.”

“I don’t think it is healthy to go through life with a sense of fear and paranoia. But I do think it is a good idea to be aware of potential dangers in the world without it overtaking your life.”

“It is said that 1 in 25 people are sociopaths, which is people that are defined without a conscience and can lie very easily. I think it is a skill that is easy to be able to identify.”

“For me it was a little bit therapeutic. Because reading all of the stories of these serial killers, it is hard to deal with that information.”

“We all have to figure out our own way to function. I came to the conclusion that blocking this stuff out is a good thing to do at times. Which is ironic, because that’s what Don is good at. He’s good at compartmentalizing his mind.”

“Obviously I don’t want to add to the misery of the world and make people unhappy. But I do think there is a positive to be had from making people have a good scare. So hopefully it isn’t a negative on the world.”

“The Clovehitch Killer” is being released in select cinemas and will be available on VOD and Digital HD on November 16.

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