Parents' Guide to

Disappearance at Clifton Hill

By Brian Costello, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 15+

Clever, quirky thriller has violence, language.

Movie NR 2020 100 minutes
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This is an engaging, quirky-dark mystery-thriller in the tradition of Fargo and Blue Velvet. Disappearance at Clifton Hill is filled with clever uses of old and new media (promotional video cassettes, a true crime podcast, etc.) and satisfying plot twists. As a compulsive liar who's now actually on the trail of finding out what really happened before, during, and after she witnessed the traumatic event that led to her becoming a liar, Middleton plays Abby as likable, if damaged, and captures the nuances of the discrepancies between her past and present behavior and the lengths she's going to solve a cold case. Her unreliability is offset by a strong supporting cast, including Gross' portrayal of the skeptical and more together Laure, and legendary director Cronenberg, who delightfully straddles the line between distinguished and kooky in a way you'd expect from a character who's a regional true crime conspiracy theorist podcaster.

Like the upper Midwest in Fargo and Northern California in The Birds, the setting of Disappearance at Clifton Hill -- the Canadian side of Niagara Falls -- is practically a character in and of itself. The casinos, tourist traps, alien-themed diners, and the ever-present Falls themselves set the movie's mood, which is sometimes in sync with the action and sometimes discordant, but always there and always distinctive. There are layers that seem to reward repeated viewings, and, in a genre filled with more than its share of cliched characters, stories, and "plot twists," this is among the best in recent memory.

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