Disappearance at Clifton Hill

and has spent part of his life battling the bot- tle. That condition appears to be hereditary, as Gordon, who belittles his son from early in their reunion, becomes a verbally vicious sonuvabitch when he’s soused. Wood, who makes Norval sympathetic even though he’s kind of a wimp, and McHattie, turning one-upmanship and spo- ken cruelty into an art form, play off each other perfectly.

Norval soon learns the hard way that his pop has even more unsavoury friends, as the plot twists in a number of unexpected, nasty directions. Timpson’s skill at the tricky balanc- ing of gore and perverse behaviour with char- acter-based amusement belies his first-timer status at the helm, and shows he knows how to pitch even the ghastliest moments so the film doesn’t tip over into gratuitous gross-out territo- ry. He and Harvard also get the humour just right, exaggerating the characters’ actions and dia- logue just to the point where they become funny, yet stopping short of caricature. The actors all attack their roles with gusto and complete com- mitment to playing in the movie’s bloody sand- box, with Wood providing the crucial focal point of (comparative) normality. Even as it’s revelling in its shocking bits, the impeccably crafted Come to Daddy touches on themes of family ties and dysfunction that give a measure of meaning to the mayhem.

MICHAEL GINGOLD As Canadian As Cronenberg

DISAPPEARANCE AT CLIFTON HILL Starring Tuppence Middleton, Hannah Gross and David Cronenberg Directed by Albert Shin

Written by James Schultz and Albert Shin IFC Midnight

Mostly a mystery, Disappearance at Clifton Hill is of interest to horror fans for the key acting role played by David Cronenberg. It’s not every day you get to see an icon of genre filmmaking intro- duced on screen as he walks out of the water in full scuba gear.

Cronenberg plays Walter Bell, a diver who retrieves lost objects (and occasionally bodies) from the basin beneath Niagara Falls. He's also the town historian and hosts a conspiracy-theory podcast from a back office at a flying-sau- cer-themed diner. (The character’s name is presumably a shout-out to Art Bell.) That makes him the perfect person to help out Abby (Tuppence Middleton), newly back in town following the death of her mother and seeking the solution to a mystery dating from 1994, when she was seven. Back then, Abby witnessed the violent kidnapping of a

young boy with a bandaged eye, though her fam- ily didn’t believe her at the time. As an adult, it’s evident she has a tenuous relationship with the truth, which makes it especially difficult for her to enlist help – even from her own sister Laure (Hannah Gross) – in uncovering answers to the questions that have been haunting her. As Abby begins putting together the pieces, writer/director Albert Shin and co-scripter James Schultz do a neat job tying in the various char- acters she encounters during her pursuit. There are nice touches reinforcing that Abby is stuck in the past (she spends more time looking through old microfilm than searching the internet), and Niagara Falls, its flashy tourist attractions serving as a façade for a depressed, rundown under- belly, is a perfect setting. Disap- pearance at Clifton Hill has all the right moods, thanks to Catherine Lutes’ grim cinematography and Alex Sowinski and Leland Whit- ty’s oft-discordant score, and solid performances throughout, which helps the film over bumps in the narrative. Some of the rev- elations involving that boy don’t

carry all the surprise and shock they could have, and one regarding Abby might have added more

juice to the plot if it had been introduced earlier. MICHAEL GINGOLD

R M 38


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