Interview With Samantha Mathis, Star Of THE CLOVEHITCH KILLER - Film Inquiry (2024)

In retrospect, 2018 has been a prestigious year for the horror genre in film and television. Hereditary, Summer of ’84, Mandy, A Quiet Place, Halloween, Suspiria, and The Haunting of Hill House are just a few titles that have made waves across audiences internationally, petrifying viewers while simultaneously displaying superior filmmaking. Duncan Skiles‘s indie horror film The Clovehitch Killer is yet another worthy addition to this year’s distinguished spook fest.

The Clovehitch Killer follows an indefectible nuclear family in an idyllic small, rural, American town as their lives become drastically affected by the reappearance of a serial killer who terrorized the town ten years earlier. Dylan McDermott plays Don, the father, Samantha Mathis plays Cindy, the mother, and Charlie Plummer plays Tyler, the son. Their collective acting talents combine for a believable family dynamic that is suddenly devastated by the unthinkable.

Mathis is no stranger to thrillers, having appeared in such hit titles like American Psycho and Guillermo del Toro‘s The Strain. As such, she brings a knowledgeable touch to Skiles‘s sophom*ore feature directorial effort. Coinciding with The Clovehitch Killer‘s release, I had a chance to speak with Mathis about her work in the film, the promising future Skiles has in the industry, her impressive career, her genre preferences, and more.

Interview With Samantha Mathis, Star Of THE CLOVEHITCH KILLER - Film Inquiry (1)

Congratulations on your new film, The Clovehitch Killer.

Samantha Mathis:Thank you so much.

Yeah. Of course.

Samantha Mathis:When do you get to see it?

I got to see it this week.

Samantha Mathis:What’d you think?

I really enjoyed it. It was awesome. It’s a worthy addition to the phenomenal year horror’s been having.

Samantha Mathis:Right? Nothing quite like it out there. I’m very proud of this movie. You never know when you make these indie movies how they’re going to come out, and how all the pieces are going to fit together, and if it’s going to be shot well. You meet the director, and Duncan [Skiles] offered me the job, and sent me a deck with visual references, and tonal references. But then, you never know. And then I saw the movie, and I was like, “Wow. He is an assured filmmaker.” He is a very good filmmaker. I think we’re going to see a lot from Mr. Duncan Skiles. Dare I say, there’s some Kubrickian moments in the movie.

Oh, there definitely are. You mentioned Duncan sent you a deck. What else drew you to this film? Was it the visual aspect, tonal aspect, or was it the taut writing?

Samantha Mathis:It was a page-turner. I read it so quickly. I was sucked in immediately to the landscape, to the storytelling. And then, looking at his deck and sort of seeing his visual references. Obviously, I’m a supporting character. It’s really Charlie [Plummer] and Dylan’s [McDermott] movie. But I love working with young filmmakers. I love being a part of someone’s vision and supporting that. And then, I signed on, and I knew Dylan, obviously, but then, when I met Charlie, I went, “Oh, my god. This young man’s magnificent. He’s got something special.” And so, it was really a wonderfully gratifying experience to work with him, to see his work, and to build a mother-son relationship with him, which happened really naturally and organically.

And the acting really shows that. It’s phenomenal all around. How much time did you, Dylan, and Charlie have to prepare as a family unit for the film?

Samantha Mathis:Virtually none together. We met once for lunch in New York. I don’t know. I can’t speak to what Charlie and Dylan got to do together, but I had one day before we started shooting in the church where Madison [Beaty] and Charlie and I ran through reading all the scenes. So, it’s one of those things where the material’s so rich, and it’s all there. And we had a pretty good sense of what Duncan wanted. And then we just dove in. And dove into his sandbox, if you will. Duncan’s sandbox. And just went for it. And I think that the acting across the board is so impressive. The scenes with Charlie and Madison are so, so subtly and beautifully acted. I don’t say this all the time, but I’m really proud to be a part of the movie.

Duncan does such a nauseatingly effective job at building suspense, scene after scene, in The Clovehitch Killer. The tension doesn’t let up. How does he work as a director? What is he like on set?

Samantha Mathis:Very quiet. Very specific. Very specific in certain shots of what he’s looking for. And in that way, well, I never worked with Kubrick, and I know that’s a tall thing to say – I don’t throw that around willy-nilly – but he was very clear about what he wanted in certain moments, which speaks to a level of confidence and assuredness. Maybe he didn’t feel that way on the day, but he knew what he wanted. And then, in other moments, it was really, very, very hands-off and sort of allowing us to find the scene and trusting his actors. That he cast the right people. And letting us do what we do.

So, again, I didn’t know, at the end of the day, what’s this going to come out to be like? And then I looked back on it and went, “Wow. He knew exactly what he was doing.” He knew when to come in and he knew when to leave us alone.

How much was screenwriter Christopher Ford involved? Was he there on set, or was he more hands-off during the creative process?

Samantha Mathis:He was there, but it was Duncan’s movie.

The Clovehitch Killer uses what appears to be the boring monotony of small town rural living as a backdrop for this great murder mystery. What do you think it is about a small town that makes these kinds of stories so effectively creepy?

Samantha Mathis:Well, I think the small town stands in for Everytown, USA. And I think when you put a creepy story like this into a small town – what I love about the movie and this kind of movie is, “Do you know who your next-door neighbor is? Do you know who your son is? Do you know who your husband is? Do you really?” And when you put it in an Everytown, USA, it becomes sort of a universal story for viewers. “Wow. What if I don’t really know who that person is?” And that’s terrifying.

That’s way more terrifying than a slasher, killer movie which there’s a place and time for those too. But it’s really terrifying to think you don’t know who your friends are, and you don’t know who your family is. And they could be someone entirely other than who you think they are.

In that sense, it makes it way too relatable [laughter].

Samantha Mathis:Right. Exactly. So that’s why you put it in a small town. And it becomes terrifying. Idyllic place where people go to church, and they volunteer, and they have a Boy Scout troop, and then things are dark.

This year, as we were discussing earlier, has been so great for horror. Are you a fan of horror films as a viewer?

Samantha Mathis:I am. Although, straight-up horror, I usually have to watch it with my hands over my eyes. I’m kind of chicken. I get scared really easily, so I don’t see a lot of them because it just raises my blood pressure [laughter]. When I was younger, I think I could handle them a little bit more, but I’m not interested in being scared these days. The world is scary enough.

This is true. Have you had a chance to see any of this year’s other horror films?

Samantha Mathis:I haven’t. No. What have you loved this year?

I’ve seen the Suspiria remake and Halloween reboot.

Samantha Mathis:Dying to see that [Suspiria]. Is it amazing?

Oh, yeah. It’s really good [laughter].

Samantha Mathis:I’m listening to the soundtrack. Because Thom Yorke, so.

The soundtrack is awesome.

Samantha Mathis:But I haven’t seen it yet. I’m also shooting right now, so I don’t have a lot of time to go to the movies.

You’ve starred in some memorable thrillers including Broken Arrow and American Psycho, dramas such as Little Women, and some comedies like your appearance of Curb Your Enthusiasm. Which genre do you prefer to act in?

Samantha Mathis:I like them all for different reasons. I suppose my go-to wheelhouse is character-driven work. That can be in every genre. But drama’s probably the thing I’ve done the most. But I really consider this movie to be a family drama-thriller slash coming-of-age story, in a way, for Charlie Plummer‘s character, right? He’s a young man who has to go through the journey of losing his innocence. So, I like them all as long as they’re based in some humanity. But drama’s, I guess, the thing I’m most known for. I like the good, dark, messy feelings.

To that end, you’ve worked on some bigger-budget and some smaller, independent films. Which one is kind of more your pace?

Samantha Mathis:I like both. I think that there’s a lot of interesting work in television these days. I think some of the most interesting work is in television these days. But also, you have an opportunity in independent filmmaking to make your more character-driven features. That said, I love to be on a big movie. I love to get paid. To work on Broken Arrow with John Woo was an extraordinary life experience as an actor; to see someone as masterful as Mr. Woo choreograph a sequence and have seven cameras going at the same time, cranked at different speeds and at different dutch angles, was breathtaking. It was ballet. It was a dance that was amazing. So, you don’t get to play with toys on that level or see that kind of filmmaking when you’re on an indie. It’s a different kind of filmmaking. I like it all.

Speaking of Duncan, let’s say he came up to you and had a new script he was exciting about. Would you dive right in and do this all over again?

Samantha Mathis:I would absolutely work with him again. And it would be really exciting, now that I know what I know about him. Because I didn’t know. It was a total gamble. I would feel very safe in his hands and I’m very excited to see what he does next. And I would love to work with him again. Yeah. I think he’s got a remarkable…”confidence” is the wrong word…but he’s got a remarkably strong storytelling ability for someone his age.

Yeah. I was blown away by every scene.

Samantha Mathis:Oh, that’s great. I’m so happy to hear that.

You mentioned you were shooting right now. Are there any exciting projects that you can disclose that you have on the horizon?

Samantha Mathis:Well, I am shooting right now. I’m doing a recurring role on Billions, the TV show on Showtime. Which is so much fun. I don’t know if you’re familiar with the show.

Yeah. I am.

Samantha Mathis:So, um, yeah. At the end of Season 3, the character of Taylor [Mason] left Axe Cap to start Mase Cap, their own investment company, and I’m the COO of their company. So, I’m having a ball! I’m working with Asia Kate Dillon and Dan Soder. And we’re shooting in New York, and it’s a great show, and the writing is amazing. And it’s fantastic. So, I started that in September and I’m doing that until March. And then, I did also do a thriller-horror, and we had a working title…god, I’m blanking right now on what the actual title is because while we were shooting it, they called it Honeycomb. So, you know who Jason Blum is?

Yeah.

Samantha Mathis:So, Jason Blum has this anthology series [Into The Dark] on [Hulu], where there’s a movie coming out every month that works in tandem with a holiday of each month. And it’s “All That We Destroy.” That’s what it’s called. “All That We Destroy.” And it’ll be out on Mother’s Day. And it’s a twisted little story. Four characters. And I play a very strange mother. So, we shot that in February and that’ll be out on [Hulu] in May.

I will definitely keep an eye out for that. Very cool. Samantha, thank you so much for taking the time to answer some questions. I really appreciate it.

Samantha Mathis:Absolutely. Totally my pleasure. Great to talk to you. Glad you liked the movie. Tell everyone. Tell everyone to go see it [laughter]. I’m super proud of it.

Film Inquiry would like to thank Samantha Mathis for her time and insight.

The Clovehitch Killer saw a limited theatrical release and became available on VOD platforms on November 16, 2018. For more information on its release, click here.

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Interview With Samantha Mathis, Star Of THE CLOVEHITCH KILLER - Film Inquiry (2024)

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