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‘Disappearance at Clifton Hill’ Review: A Childhood Trauma Resurfaces


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‘Disappearance at Clifton Hill’ Review: A Childhood Trauma Resurfaces

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The opening shots of this movie seem to be of a fog imbued with some kind of green slime; once this lifts, we’re with a small family on a fishing trip. One of two little girls is separated from her sister and parents, and comes upon a young boy with a square piece of gauze over one eye. He’s a discomfiting figure, and he’s soon pursued by adult figures who are more discomfiting, obscured by foliage. The young girl isn’t sure what ultimately happens, but she, and we, understand that whatever it was, it was bad.

Decades later, Abby, the witness (Tuppence Middleton), is faced with selling her mom’s rickety Niagara Falls motel. Sister Laure (Hannah Gross) is all for it. Abby retains an attachment and resents the third-generation business hotshot who wants the property. Her haunted memories find a link to his back story, and her suspicions, in turn, are fed by Walter, a local podcaster, self-styled historian and conspiracy theorist. He’s played with droll understatement by David Cronenberg. Cronenberg’s entrance — he emerges from a lake in wet suit and full scuba gear — is one of the more noteworthy in recent genre cinema, in part because the robust performer is 76 years old.

This intriguing movie has quite a few plot twists, and they’re all admirably worked out. But in the aggregate, they tend to pull away from the film’s strongest feature, which is the dank, dread-filled atmosphere sustained almost throughout by Albert Shin, the director and co-writer. Nevertheless, for patient or forgiving fans of idiosyncratic thrillers, “Disappearance” may deliver satisfactory spills and chills.

Disappearance at Clifton Hill

Not rated. Running time: 1 hour 40 minutes.

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