Disappearance at Clifton Hill Movie Review

“Disappearance at Clifton Hill” takes audiences on a journey through the mysterious underbelly of Niagara Falls, blending elements of pulp noir and conspiracy theories. 

Directed by Albert Shin, the film promises intrigue with a gripping central crime, an appearance by David Cronenberg as a scuba diving podcaster, and a narrative that explores the elusive nature of truth. 

However, despite its potential, the movie fails to fully capitalize on its intriguing premise, leaving viewers wanting more.

Unfinished Childhood Memories

The story revolves around Abby, portrayed hauntingly by Mikayla Radan as a seven-year-old and later by Tuppence Middleton as an adult. A traumatic event from her childhood, where she witnesses the abduction of a boy, resurfaces after the death of her mother. As Abby returns to Niagara Falls to oversee her family’s hotel, she embarks on a quest to uncover the truth behind the disappearance that has haunted her for years.

Convenient Convergences

While retracing the steps of the past, Abby encounters various individuals who become entangled in her search for answers. Walter, played by David Cronenberg, adds an air of intrigue with his scuba diving activities and conspiracy podcast. As Abby digs deeper, she uncovers a series of strange events, including a VHS tape featuring the Magnificent Moulins, a magician duo, and their connection to a suicide and a potential cover-up.

The film exhibits a small-town quality, with a tight-knit cast of characters whose paths conveniently cross. Singh, whom Abby meets at a bar, turns out to be a police officer involved in the investigation. Abby’s sister, Laure, working at a casino, becomes instrumental in providing valuable information. While these coincidences may strain believability, they contribute to the story’s pulpy atmosphere.

Abby’s Unyielding Determination

Abby’s character emerges as the driving force behind the film’s narrative. With the curiosity and audacity of a journalism student, Abby fearlessly navigates a web of lies, using her disarming smile to deceive strangers. Middleton delivers a captivating performance, capturing Abby’s enigmatic nature and transforming her into a character shrouded in mystery.

In “Disappearance at Clifton Hill,” truth is a scarce commodity, and Shin and co-writer James Schultz populate the story with a host of eccentric characters who manipulate and distort facts. Even Cronenberg’s character, known for his conspiracy theories, may not be as trustworthy as he initially appears. The film plays with this shifting perception of truth, leaving Abby and the audience to decipher between lies and reality.

A Missed Opportunity for Kitschy Delight

Despite its potential as a kitschy ’80s-inspired mystery, the film fails to fully embrace its own quirks. The magician family, the UFO-inspired diner, and the touristy allure of Niagara Falls offer fertile ground for humor and offbeat charm. Unfortunately, the movie’s attempts at levity are sporadic, and its peculiar inclinations remain muted.

Scenes like the magicians’ demonstration of sleights of hand, while recounting their side of the story, provide glimpses of humor, but these moments are fleeting. The film misses opportunities to delve deeper into the distinctive ambiance of its setting. Instead of immersing viewers in the weirdness of Niagara Falls, it quickly reverts to a more conventional approach.

The Elusive Finale

As the narrative unfolds, the movie’s slippery nature becomes increasingly apparent, culminating in a finale that leaves audiences with more questions than answers. While this ambiguity may be intentional, it does little to enhance the overall experience. The characters themselves are underdeveloped, and the movie’s reliance on shifting perspectives feels more like a gimmick than a deliberate narrative choice.

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“Disappearance at Clifton Hill” presents an intriguing premise that promises a gripping and enigmatic journey into the heart of Niagara Falls. While the film boasts a talented cast and an atmospheric setting, it falls short of its potential. The story’s pulpy elements and conspiracy-laden plot remain underexplored, leaving audiences longing for a more engaging and memorable experience.

Despite its flaws, the movie benefits from Tuppence Middleton’s captivating portrayal of Abby, a character who embodies curiosity and deception. Additionally, David Cronenberg’s cameo adds a layer of intrigue to the narrative. However, these elements alone cannot compensate for the film’s missed opportunities to fully embrace its kitschy potential and deliver a more compelling mystery.

“Disappearance at Clifton Hill” ultimately fails to live up to its promise of a riveting Canadian whodunit. While it has its moments, the lack of intrigue and a failure to fully explore its pulpy nature hampers the film’s ability to captivate audiences. Despite its gripping central crime, the truth remains frustratingly out of reach, leaving viewers with a sense of unfulfilled potential.

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