There’s something intrinsically terrifying about films that could easily take place in real life. Such is the case in the recently released thriller THE CLOVEHITCH KILLER, which features a picture-perfect family and the horrific secrets that lay behind closed doors. For the film’s release, I had the opportunity to chat with director Duncan Skiles about his latest film where we discussed everything from religious fanaticism to researching serial killers.
Nightmarish Conjurings: Hi Duncan, thank you for speaking with me today. For those who may not be familiar with your film THE CLOVEHITCH KILLER, can you tell us a little bit about it?
Duncan Skiles: It’s about a sixteen-year-old Boy Scout who discovers some things in his dad’s shed. This leads him to suspect that his dad might be a serial killer who terrorized the community but went quiet about ten years ago and hasn’t been caught or heard from since. It leads him down a path of investigation while also focusing on the tension within the household making him question what his dad knows, if his dad really is the killer, and so on.
Nightmarish Conjurings: What was it about Christopher Ford’s script that made you want to be a part of this project?
DS: The story actually came from me - the characters and the structure. Christopher Ford is a good friend of mine and we’ve collaborated for many years and he’s a much better screenwriter than I am. He’s very, very good at structuring a screenplay to keep people turning pages and to keep people watching movies.
Nightmarish Conjurings: What type of research did you do before writing the story and forming the characters?
DS: I just went down a rabbit hole of reading about serial killers. I came across these stories about guys who had families and I thought that was fascinating but thought it would be cool to put a spin on the story so that it was told from the perspective of someone in the family.
Nightmarish Conjurings: There is a strong undertone of religious fanaticism throughout the film which I found to be incredibly intriguing. I really loved the juxtaposition between putting a false identity out there to the public so as to not see what is truly going on behind closed doors. Was this something you always planned to do?
DS: I always wanted the film to be a religious thing. I’m equally fascinated by religion as it’s something I don’t understand. The religion aspect is really important for the mom character, especially because there’s this whole underlayer that is going on with her. The role that religion plays in her life had a lot to do with her relationship with her husband in that I think there was a time in their past when she discovered something and reformed him through the power, and love, of God. She thought that she fixed him and that religion was the thing that’s keeping him from going crazy.
Nightmarish Conjurings: One of the reasons the film works so well is because of the chemistry between Charlie Plummer and Dylan McDermott. What was the casting process like?
DS: Charlie came on as a recommendation from CAA (Creative Artists Agency). I think he may have been one of the few people we auditioned for Tyler and I just thought he was great. He was one of the most sensitive and intelligent teenagers that I had ever met and we get on famously very quickly. Dylan came much later after we went through a lot of people for the role. The role is very difficult and it’s not likable but Dylan volunteered himself and sent in an audition. I didn’t want to cast Dylan at first because he’s so handsome and I was thinking of the character as being kind of pudgy and balding. I didn’t know if this handsome TV actor was going to spoil everything but it ended up turning out very well. I put him through a physical transformation with a prosthetic belly and we shaved his hairline back. That, combined with the work that he did with his accent and posture, really allowed him to inhabit and create the character. I’m very happy with that collaboration and the job that they both did.
Nightmarish Conjurings: This film is definitely a slow burn thriller that really focuses on character development and the interactions these characters have with one another. Was that always the original intent?
DS: Yeah, my intention was to create tension. I wanted to get into it slowly and then very slowly ratchet it up and tighten it so that it would just get more and more tense as it went along. I wanted to create something that didn’t feel like a scary movie in that it had things like a shattered glass title treatment or a lot of spooky music. The film takes place during the daytime and it’s shot very straight-forward.
Nightmarish Conjurings: My last question for you is do you have any other upcoming projects that we should be keeping our eyes out for in the future?
DS: Yes, I’m going to be doing another scary movie that is sort of inspired by true stuff and it involves a conspiracy theorist.
THE CLOVEHITCH KILLER is now in select theaters, On Demand, and Digital HD