The Clovehitch Killer: is it a true story, real events behind Netflix film - who is BTK Killer Dennis Rader?

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The film is finding a new audience after arriving on Netflix this month

A 2018 film that recently arrived on Netflix has got true-crime fans talking, debating whether the haunting plot at its centre is based on real events or not.

Charlie Plummer stars in The Clovehitch Killer, a thriller about a teenager called Tyler growing up in a small town that is still haunted by a string of unsolved murders that took place 10 years earlier, before the serial killer apparently went dormant.

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When Tyler makes a disturbing discovery in his family’s van, he starts to wonder whether his father, respected community leader Don (Dylan McDermott), could be the murderer and turns to a classmate Kassi (Madisen Beaty), who is fascinated by the case, for help.

There are some plot holes – such as the fact that a local teen seems to be the only person interested in carrying on the investigation – but the haunting atmosphere and strong performances will help you overlook them.

Now it’s on Netflix, the film has found a brand new audience of grisly crime drama fans. But is it a true story? Here is everything you need to know about it.

Is The Clovehitch Killer a true story?

(Photo: IFC Midnight)(Photo: IFC Midnight)
(Photo: IFC Midnight) | IFC Midnight

Although The Clovehitch Killer does not claim to be a true story, it was largely inspired by the story of real life serial killer Dennis Rader, also known as the BTK Killer.

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Rader murdered 10 people in Wichita and Park City, Kansas between 1974 and 1991, and wrote mocking letters to the police and the media detailing his crimes, which included information only he and the police could know about.

He was known as the BTK Killer - or sometimes, the BTK Strangler - as he would Bind, Torture and Kill his victims. Rader avoided capture and imprisonment for years after his crimes, and stopped sending his letters.

That was until 2004, when Rader restarted his correspondence. This led to him being located in 2005 and found guilty of the murders. Rader is currently serving 10 consecutive life sentences at the El Dorado Correctional Facility in Kansas, which amounts to at least 175 years imprisonment.

Is the film any good?

The Clovehitch Killer appears to have received an admirable - if not astonishing - critical response around the time of its release.

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It currently boasts an approval rating of 79% on Rotten Tomatoes after 38 reviews, and the website says the film “patiently dials up the tension with a story that makes up for a lack of surprises with strong performances and a chilling wit.”

How can I watch it?

The Clovehitch Killer is available to stream now on Netflix. It is also available through Amazon Prime Video.

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