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Review: Clifton Hill plays all the angles 

The Niagara Falls-set film circles ever closer to a constantly obscured truth.

Tuppence Middleton ruminates in welcome Twin Peaks pastiche as Abby in Clifton Hill. - ENTRACTFILMS.COM STILL
  • Tuppence Middleton ruminates in welcome Twin Peaks pastiche as Abby in Clifton Hill.
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Niagara Falls, with its gambling and theme park gaudiness sidled up beside one of the country’s most majestic natural wonders, is rife with potential for Lynchian strangeness. It doesn’t take director Albert Shin long to tap into that disquieting feeling with Clifton Hill. Just past the intense but terrifically understated opening sequence—in which the protagonist, Abby, witnesses a boy with one eye covered by a bloody bandage get abducted from the woods—Shin presents us with a montage of the setting as an uneasy score both settles and unsettles us for the coming ride.

Perhaps it’s a bit obvious to point out, but there is a welcome feeling of real Twin Peaks pastiche that bubbles up here and runs throughout.

When we see Abby again, she’s all grown up (played by Tuppence Middleton) and made her way home on the bus to take care of her mother’s crumbling motel. We learn she’s a pathological liar—but we don’t learn the extent of her lying. There’s a monolithic and shady local company trying to buy the motel. And while Abby meanders through the detritus of the place, she finds a photo of the boy’s abductors and car, and heads into an intricate labyrinth of clues to find some answers.

David Cronenberg’s local podcast host and expert diver is inadvertently hilarious, plugging his show whenever possible, and Marie-Josée Croze, as one half of a corny magician duo named The Magnificent Moulins, is by turns mesmerizing and terrifying in a climactic diner scene.

Clifton Hill is shot beautifully, well-paced and its premise is compelling. But, there is rarely a feeling that anything is at stake with the main plot—perhaps because of the cold case nature of it, or because it seems Abby is rarely in real danger.

A pretty shocking third act reveal makes one imagine a wholly different psychological thriller, centred on Abby’s predilection for obscuring the truth. Still, it’s a mystery that will keep you wondering after the credits roll.

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