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#TIFF19 Review: Clifton Hill (Special Presentations)

September 9, 2019

By John Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

Set in the tacky, tourist trap area of Niagara Falls that the film is named after, Clifton Hill follows a woman named Abby (Tuppence Middleton), who returns to her hometown of Niagara Falls after her mother dies to help facilitate the sale of their family motel, and becomes obsessed with solving a long-buried mystery. As a child, Abby witnessed a “one-eyed” boy being beaten and stuffed into the trunk of a car, a memory that has stuck with her for over two decades. With others being reluctant to believe her, including her own sister Laure (Hannah Gross), Abby starts her own investigation, and ends up falling into a dark and twisted web, as she becomes convinced that she has stumbled into a vast conspiracy involving those who run the town.

Following up his haunting debut feature In Her Place, a slow burn dramatic thriller that premiered at TIFF in 2015, Canadian director Albert Shin delivers a different sort of mystery in Clifton Hill, which plays as a mix film noir, psychological drama, and conspiracy thriller. The film is clearly inspired by the work of both David Lynch and David Cronenberg, with Cronenberg himself even having a small but memorable supporting role in the film as a conspiracy theorist podcast host.

Because Abby is a compulsive liar and therefore an unreliable narrator, it’s hard to know exactly where the truth lies, which is one of the most interesting aspects of Clifton Hill. I’m not sure on first viewing if the story quite all adds up, but I really liked the eery, unsettling vibe of the film. The cinematography by Catherine Lutes is stylish and has an often noirish feel to it, and the film is complimented by an oddly fitting soundtrack of old country songs.

Tuppence Middleton in Clifton Hill

Public Screenings:

Thursday, September 5th – 9:00 PM at Ryerson Theatre

Monday, September 9th – 10:00 PM at Scotiabank Theatre

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