Following the death of her mother, Abby (Tuppence Middleton), a troubled young woman, returns to her hometown of Niagara Falls and the dilapidated motel her family used to run. She soon finds herself drawn back into a mystery that has haunted her since childhood. As Abby sets out to discover the truth, she must confront a local eccentric (David Cronenberg), convince her sister (Hannah Gross) and face her own demons.
Although the title echoes those of House on Haunted Hill or The Haunting of Hill House, Disappearance at Clifton Hill is a completely different kettle of fish. Best described as a strange blend of True Detective and Secret Window, Disappearance at Clifton Hill is a brilliant crime mystery with intense characters, unexpected depth, and a dramatic story spanning decades. Directed by Albert Shin and written by James Schultz and Albert Shin, Disappearance at Clifton Hill is absolutely the best neo-noir film I have seen in a long while and here’s why.
Firstly, the acting. Tuppence Middleton (as Abby) takes a complex and difficult protagonist and knocks it out of the park. Without getting into spoiler territory, Abby is a lot more intricate of a character than what we are generally introduced to, having—shall we say—a colourful personality. Her stellar performance is accompanied by equally excellent offerings from Hannah Gross (as Laure) and the legendary David Cronenberg (as Walter). The film is really well cast and well-acted.
Secondly, the story. Rarely do we get such a unique tale with a web of interwoven, complex characters. Then there’s the added layer of deception and disappointment that makes everything all the more obfuscated. The film, while running with this True Detective-esque narrative still has the gal to muddy the waters with the complexities of pathological lying or mythomania. The tale stays easy to follow but grows ever more complex with each passing scene and that—in and of itself—is a feat and a half.
Thirdly, the stylisation and location. The scenery is great and the sets are simple and thoughtful. It has that small-town feel and remains really atmospheric throughout. Disappearance at Clifton Hill has a somewhat hazy feel to it as well, which may have something to do with its moody score. It all comes together really well and I feel that director Albert Shin really did manage to pull off his vision of waterfalls, strip malls and dated motels hiding the crimes of the barely famous.
Disappearance at Clifton Hill is a crime thriller with twists and layers. It does not quite blow one out of the water, but it definitely deserves better than its five-point-something score on IMDb. I’d rate it somewhere around a seven. It is atmospheric and pays great attention to small detail, though at times it does drop the ball when it comes to consistency. It unravels slightly in the latter half but still managed to entertain me throughout. The mixed-message ending still has me thinking, but perhaps that’s what it was meant to do. Overall, I definitely enjoyed the experience. Thanks for reading and as always, stay sordid. Trailer and poster below.
Disappearance At Clifton Hill will be available on Digital Download from July 20 and on DVD from August 3
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