That Ambiguous 'Clovehitch Killer' Ending, Explained [SPOILERS]

At the end of 'Clovehitch Killer,' we're left wondering if Tyler was really able to kill his dad, Don. Here's how we should probably interpret the ending.

Gina Vaynshteyn - Author

May 13 2021, Published 8:50 p.m. ET

Clovehitch Killer ending
Source: Netflix

If you just finished watching Clovehitch Killer, you probably have a lot of questions. Just in time for Father's Day (just kidding), the 2018 slow burn horror film has started trending on Netflix, leading many new movie-deprived folks to see what the fuss is all about. Clovehitch Killer follows a seemingly normal family, the Burnsides. 16-year-old Tyler Burnside (Charlie Plummer) becomes fascinated with the unsolved case of the Clovehitch Killer, someone who murdered 13 women about a decade ago.

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What happens when it's very, very possible that your own dad is the killer? After all, many serial killers disturbingly have totally normal lives — spouses, children, friends, jobs, etc. Played by Dylan McDermott, Tyler's dad Don is a boy scout troop leader who has a very creepy shed. One day, Tyler investigates it, finding photographs of some of the murdered Clovehitch Killer victims. He becomes convinced his dad is the serial killer.

Source: Netflix
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Tyler, a scout himself, pretends to go to troop leader camp, but he and his friend Kassi actually plot to follow Don, as he's preparing to kill another victim. They find him in a house where he's bound and gagged a woman, and he tries to deceive his son by saying he's having an affair and that he and the woman are into some "kinky stuff." Tyler came prepared with a gun, and slowly puts it down, as Don has seemingly convinced him. 

Wrong move! Don takes the gun, tells Tyler he's disappointed in him, and shoots Tyler, proving that he truly is a psychopath and will do anything to preserve his freedom. Except...the gun isn't actually loaded. Tyler and Don get into a scuffled and Don nearly chokes Tyler to death, but Kassi intervenes and knocks Don out with a lamp. Time fast-forwards a bit and Don is declared "missing."

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don ending
Source: Netflix

The 'Clovehitch Killer' ending, explained.

The ending of Clovehitch Killer ending is meant to be ambiguous, but we can ultimately assume Don is dead. As Tyler gives a heartwarming speech to the scouts about his father's memory, we get flashbacks to a campfire, where Tyler and Kassi have moved Don's body. Tyler procures a gun, hopefully this time loaded, and points it at his father's face. Don wakes up to see his son and the gun in his face. While we don't see him get shot, we can assume, based on Tyler's speech, that he killed him.

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tyler ending
Source: Netflix

Is 'Clovehitch Killer' a true story?

Clovehitch Killer isn't a true story, but it is based on one. The film's screenwriter Christopher Ford says that Don is based on the BTK Killer in a 2019 interview. “BTK was definitely someone we researched carefully. I say we because most of that initial research was done by my friend Duncan Skiles, who directed the film,” Christopher said.

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The BTK Killer is a Kansas-based man named Dennis Rader who would "bind, torture, kill" his victims (similar to Don's methodology), hence the nickname. Dennis killed 10 people over 17 years, and was arrested in 2005 and pled guilty. He's currently serving 10 life sentences.

You can currently stream Clovehitch Killer on Netflix and Hulu.

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