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Disappearance at Clifton Hill - Film Review

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by ABC Writer (subscribe)
Freelance journalist with a passion for theatre, the arts, food and books.
Published July 2nd 2020
New thriller With Tuppence Middleton
With a mix of whodunnit and Hitchcock-style suspense, new Canadian movie Disappearance at Clifton Hill, starring David Cronenberg, has a lot to offer as a modern mystery.

disappearance at Clifton Hill, film review, tuppence middleton, thriller
Tuppence Middleton is an engaging lead in this new thriller

Set in out-of-season Niagara Falls, there's an eerie half-deserted feel to much of the location, particularly the empty motel at the centre of the action.

Despite being a Canadian offering, its leading lady is English actress Tuppence Middleton, whose star has been on the rise in recent years. Middleton was in film FIsherman's Friends last year along with the Downton Abbey movie as Lucy Smith - Branson's love interest.

Middleton plays Abby, who is returning to her hometown of Niagara Falls as an adult. It quickly becomes apparent that the opening scenes are a flashback to Abby as a child when she thought she witnessed a child kidnapping during a family day in the woods.

Haunted by this traumatic memory, Abby sets about doing her own investigation as she waits out the final terms of her mother's will with her sister.

disappearance at Clifton hill, film review, tuppence middleton, david cronenberg
Tuppence Middleton and Hannah Gross play uneasy sisters in the movie

There's plenty of hints at other events that have caused Abby to stay away for so long, along with a tense relationship with her sister, played by Hannah Gross. These are gradually revealed and more surprising than expected in a film that constantly keeps you guessing who to trust, to like and even believe.

This neo-noir thriller has got a dark sense of humour too that sees troubled young Abby getting into plenty of scrapes, sometimes comical, and befriending the local eccentric Walter (David Cronenberg).

First emerging from a lake in diving gear, this elderly local is a striking character that drives much of the investigation from his conspiracy theories that he airs on his local podcast. Director-turned-actor Cronenberg haunts the screen with his intensity and you look forward to whenever he appears.

Disappearance at Clifton Hill, David Cronenberg, film review
David Cronenberg has an intensity on screen.

While it moves along at a gentle pace, there's questions over what is reality or fantasy as the film progresses, which creates more suspense and tension.

Abby believes the rich owners of the 'big house' in the area are linked in some way to the disappearance, which leads her on to the parents of the missing boy. They do entertainment shows with a ferocious tiger and their strangeness is more akin to the Tiger King documentary than Las Vegas' Siegfried & Roy.

It's directed by Albert Shin, who co-wrote the feature with James Schultz, and has created an intriguing, albeit slow-paced tale.

The Niagara setting, far different to that seen by tourists, is beguiling and atmospheric. Abby knows its power only too well as she explains to a newcomer how the Falls can make people mad.

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A new thriller with shades of Hitchcock

Through all this, Middleton is very watchable and strikes the right tone that makes you want to believe in her, but also slightly guarded that you don't quite trust her enough.

While the only drawback would be that everything is suddenly wrapped up very quickly like a summary note, there is at least an unexpected twist.

With quirky characters and plenty of twists and turns, Disappearance at Clifton Hill is an alluring, enjoyable movie to while away the time.

Disappearance at Clifton Hill is released by Lightbulb Film Distribution on Digital Download across all major streaming and download platforms from July 20 and on DVD from August 3.

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Why? Review of a new film from Canada
When: Anytime
Where: At Home
Cost: From around 5 on digital platforms
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