Sunday, June 7, 2020

"Disappearance at Clifton Hill" is on Hulu

Film School Rejects:
Disappearance at Clifton Hill is a wonderfully moody puzzle box of a film, and Middleton is fantastic as the fascinatingly unreliable protagonist searching for the truth behind a child abduction. Director/co-writer Albert Shin (along with co-writer James Schultz) crafts a surprising, grim, heartfelt, and morbidly humorous little film that beats to its own waterlogged drum.

Part of its twisted charm comes in the motley crew assembled around Abby starting with a SCUBA certified David Cronenberg (playing a conspiracy nut named Walter) who spends half his screen time pimping his podcast.
It's semi-autobiographical:
Shin’s parents owned the Niagara Gateway Motel near Clifton Hill when they first immigrated to Canada from South Korea.


On one weekend trip, when the family was fishing at their regular spot on the Niagara River, Shin witnessed what might have been a kidnapping. He was around five or six. The director says the memory is repressed, resurfacing every so often, perhaps with a little more colour than when he originally remembered it. That memory is recreated in Clifton Hill’s prologue, where a little girl named Abby spots a wounded boy hiding in the woods.

“What I did see for sure was a guy take a boy, throw him in the trunk and beat him with a tire iron,” says Shin. “To this day it’s seared in my head. He was saying something like, ‘Shut the fuck up or I’ll beat you again.’ He slammed the trunk and then drove off.”

Shin’s not entirely sure what to make of what he saw. It could have been a horrifyingly abusive domestic situation. But throughout his childhood and teen years, he recounted it as a kidnapping, the story becoming more elaborate as the years went by. Nobody believed him.

“So much time has passed, I don’t even know if I just made that story up. I have all these vivid memories of this thing. I could trace it back to a place. But I don’t know if I actually saw anything, which made it more interesting for me to write about it and craft a whole story about a pathological liar.”

“Albert pitched it to me as Chinatown in Niagara Falls,” says Middleton, who plays the liar.