Thriller film The Clovehitch Killer has just arrived on Netflix, and has been captivating viewers with its chilling tale of a boy who starts to believe his father could be a notorious serial killer.


The film stars Dylan McDermott, Charlie Plummer, Samantha Mathis and Madisen Beaty and was first released in a limited number of cinemas in 2018.

However, is the film based on real events in American history, or does it tell a purely fictional story?

Read on for everything you need to know about whether The Clovehitch Killer was based on a true story?

What is The Clovehitch Killer about?

Charlie Plummer in The Clovehitch Killer
Charlie Plummer in The Clovehitch Killer. 2016 Clovehitch Film, LLC

The official synopsis for The Clovehitch Killer says: "Tyler is a good kid, a boy scout, raised by a poor but happy family in a small, religious town. But when he finds his dad, Don, has disturbing pornography hidden in the shed, he starts to fear that his dad might be Clovehitch, an infamous serial killer that was never caught.

"Tyler teams up with Kassi, a teenage outcast who's morbidly obsessed with the Clovehitch legend, to discover the truth in time to save his family."

Is The Clovehitch Killer based on a true story?

Dylan McDermott in The Clovehitch Killer
Dylan McDermott in The Clovehitch Killer 2016 Clovehitch Film, LLC

The Clovehitch Killer is not explicitly based on a particular true story and instead tells a fictional tale filled with fictional characters.

However, the plot of the film has been loosely inspired by the real-life crimes committed by the so-called BTK Killer, whose real name was Dennis Rader. Rader killed 10 people between the years 1974 and 1991, before being caught in 2005.

Who was the BTK Killer?

The Clovehitch Killer
The Clovehitch Killer. 2016 Clovehitch Film, LLC

Dennis Rader is a serial killer, born in 1945, who between 1974 and 1991 killed 10 people. He had a wife and two children and was known to his family, friends and community as a normal member of society. He held various different jobs including security camera installation and dogcatching, while also acting as a scout leader and a president of his church council.

However, he secretly had violent sexual fantasies and went on to commit gruesome murders, sometimes with years-long gaps. As he committed the murders he sent letters to the police and the media describing his crimes and signing them BTK, an acronym for Bind, Torture, Kill, describing what he did to victims.

He was eventually caught after sending a number of these letters in 2004, years after his last murders. He asked the police if his writings could be traced from a floppy disk, to which they said no. He then sent it to a local TV station, and the police found metadata in a deleted Word document which marked him out as the last person to have modified it.

More like this

He is currently serving 10 consecutive life sentences in prison for his crimes.

The Clovehitch Killer clearly takes inspiration from Rader in a number of areas. For instance, in the film, Don is regular church attendee and a boy scout leader, just as Rader was, and he also has a similar obsession with violent sexual fantasies.

Don also collects trophies from his victims in the form of driver's licences and snapshots, similarly to Rader, and he also waits a number of years to kill again.

Burnside uses the same sadistic routine in the film and has an obsession with sexual fantasies regarding bondage. Burnside is also a man of faith, routinely attending his local church, and he's a well-known Boy Scout leader. The same was true for Dennis Rader.

In the film Don is also seen dressing in drag and takes pictures of himself posing as his victims, similarly to Rader.

Fans of David Fincher's Netflix series Mindhunter may may also remember The BTK Killer, as a character who was inspired by him appeared in the show's second season, with that storyline set to continue in the show's now-cancelled third season.

The Clovehitch Killer is available to watch on Netflix now. Seasons 1-3 are also streaming now. Sign up for Netflix from £4.99 a month. Netflix is also available on Sky Glass and Virgin Media Stream.

Check out more of our Drama coverage or visit our TV Guide and Streaming Guide to see what's on tonight.


Try Radio Times magazine today and get 12 issues for only £1 with delivery to your home – subscribe now. For more from the biggest stars in TV, listen to The Radio Times Podcast.