Albert Shin’s Disappearance at Clifton Hill hits select theatres (nationwide in Canada) and VOD this weekend. From IFC MIdnight Films, Disappearance at Clifton Hill follows a woman investigating the disappearance of a young boy that she witnessed being abducted at a very young age. Shot on location in Niagara Falls, Disappearance at Clifton Hill is directed & co-written by Albert Shin, and stars Tuppence Middleton (The Imitation Game), Hannah Gross (Deadwax), David Cronenberg (Nightbreed), Eric Johnson (Ginger Snaps 2: Unleashed), and Marie Josee-Croze (Taking Lives).
Following the death of her mother, Abby (Tuppence Middleton) returns to her hometown of Niagara Falls to tie up loose ends and oversee the execution of her mother’s will. Her return opens old wounds and Abby soon finds herself investigating the violent kidnapping. Armed with little more than a vivid memory, a few family photos taken that day, and some vague newspaper clippings, Abby pleads with her sister (and police) to help her get to the bottom of this murky mystery. But Abby’s sister Laure (Hannah Gross) refuses to believe her story. A lifetime of lies and deception drove a stake through their relationship long ago, and Laure won’t see this as anything more than another tall tale fabricated to make Abby the center of attention.
Also making an appearance is a scene-stealing David Cronenberg as Walter, a local scuba enthusiast and advocate for justice in the case of Abby’s missing boy. It’s hard not to smile every time Cronenberg mentions his conspiracy theory podcast, recorded in the basement of the Flying Saucer Restuarant. He plays the part perfectly, filling Abby in on decades of small town gossip and finger-pointing. We have no reason to doubt Walter (he’s David Cronenberg after all- you trust David Cronenberg, don’t you?) but his answers only lead to more questions and powerful, public figures don’t react too well to being accused of murdering a child.
I live a short drive from Niagara Falls and I find myself in Clifton Hill all the dang time. Heck, I even got married there! It’s a tourist trap like any other, filled with souvenir shops and haunted houses but it has a lot of charm. Having two casinos, a killer midway arcade, and a brewery definitely doesn’t hurt either. But, like any other tourist trap, it exists as a strange make-believe world of attractions. It’s kitschy and fun but there is always a sense that you’ve stepped into a no man’s land nestled safely in a space where life ends and amusement begins. It’s the Perfect backdrop for a story like this, but it’s sadly missing from the movie. You can see Clifton Hill just a block away as Abby walks the streets at night but it’s always at a distance. I’m sure trying to film in such a busy (and profitable) area wasn’t easy, so it’s hard to fault the film for hiding the glitz and gutters of its main attraction.
In Landmark theatres across Canada right now, there is a featurette for Disappearance at Clifton Hill running in the preshow. It’s pretty cool to see an indie thriller get such a spotlight and it features an interview with director Albert Shin. In it, he discusses Clifton Hill as a tourist town “constantly building its own mythology” and how places like this make for such an interesting exploration with a character like Abby. As a person who lies about every aspect of her life to everyone, including herself, Abby is also trying to continually build her own mythology. It’s disappointing that we weren’t able to see her interact more with that mirror-maze world but Shin manages to find locations just around the corner that are as quirky and illusory as anything you’d find on the main drag.
Disappearance at Clifton Hill is an exploration into the malleable nature of truth and the destructive power of lies. It’s a tight thriller that, like a good liar, buries the truth under layers of misinformation. There is a tragic Clifton Hill sized hole in the center of the movie but it also features some really unique performances, including a fantastic diner sequence as tense and suspect as any smoke-filled film noir. The characters at the center of this story have an intimate relationship with secrets, but secrets often have a way of snowballing themselves into bigger and badder mysteries. Disappearance at Clifton Hill juggles objective truth with agreed-upon truth in a mystery torn from the headlines and ready to ruin the lives of anyone it chooses to accuse.
“….an exploration into the malleable nature of truth and the destructive power of lies.”
Disappearance at Clifton Hill is in select theatres and VOD right now, through IFC Midnight. Written and directed by Albert Shin, the film stars Tuppence Middleton, Hannah Gross, David Cronenberg, Eric Johnson, and Marie Josee-Croze. Let us know what side of the falls you call home, and let us know what you thought of Disappearance at Clifton Hill on Twitter, in the Nightmare on Film Street Subreddit, and on Facebook in the Horror Movie Fiend Club.