An unexpected delight dropped on Netflix recently. IFC Midnight’s Disappearance At Clifton Hill is a tightly paced thriller with an unexpectedly clever twist in the final act. It stars Sense 8’s Tuppence Middleton as Abby, a girl with a complicated relationship with the truth who has returned to her family’s motel in Canada after her mother’s death. The motel lies in a Canadian border town near Niagara Falls. Hannah Gross plays her sister Laure who struggles to believe her sister when she insists she isn’t lying about what she saw as a child or what she believes now. Abby is haunted by seeing a boy get beaten and kidnapped while on a family fishing trip and has now become convinced that boy was Alex Moulin, a boy who supposedly committed suicide but was never found.
She didn’t tell her parents as a young girl about the one-eyed boy but told her sister, who didn’t believe her. After Abby is caught in an elaborate lie as a young adult, she loses all credibility. It’s an intriguing Boy Who Cried Wolf theme that is explored by exposing how and why someone could become a habitual liar. Abby might be a compulsive liar, but that doesn’t mean she lies about what she saw as a kid. That single event has affected her entire life. It may be what led to her alleged amnesia as an adult. Mixing noir and psychological horror aspects, Director Albert Shin’s movie is a taut thriller currently streaming on Netflix.
The ending of Disappearance At Clifton Hill
Shortly after moving back to her mother’s motel Abby gets obsessed with the memory of seeing a boy with one eye being beaten and abducted by two strangers. In the course of her investigation, she learns the boy was Alex Moulin. He was the son of the Magnificent Moulins, who were famous performers along Niagara Falls. The husband and wife magic act claimed their son committed suicide after throwing himself over the Falls, although his body was never found.
Local eccentric podcaster Walter Bell(David Cronenberg), with a legendary family of his own, has other theories. He believes a wealthy real estate tycoon Charles Lake II who owned most of the town, is responsible. Bell thinks the crime was necessary to cover up sexual abuse perpetrated on Alex by Lake’s son Charles Lake III(Eric Johnson, American Gods). Simultaneously, Lake III wants to buy Abby’s motel and does a good job acting shady and menacing.
In Disappearance at Clifton Hill, Abby eventually learns that the kidnappers were Bev and Gerry Mole, animal trainers for the Moulins. She believes Lake II hired them to kidnap Alex and feed him to the Moulin’s tigers. Gerry admitted to Alex’s eye injury by one of the tigers in the Moulin’s act and the kidnapping. A police raid uncovered proof of their crimes, but Alex’s body still hasn’t been found. When Abby confronted the Moulins, they acted extremely odd. Neither parent acted as if they loved their son and considered him a commodity in the act and nothing more. It seems poor Alex had parents who abused him, a young man who sexually assaulted him, and a couple hired by a wealthy businessman who killed him. All of that is put into question, though, when a mysterious man with an eye patch checks into the hotel Abby is now working at.
The man asks Abby if he knows her because some part of him may have recognized her as the same little girl he saw by the road the day he was kidnapped. He may also have been following the investigation from a safe distance and knows the role Abby played. He sees the picture of Charlie in the paper detailing the arrests of Charlie Lake III, the Moulins, and the Moles for the torture and death of Alex. The one-eyed man looks at Abby and tells her Charlie wasn’t a bad person. He further says Charlie never hurt Alex; he saved him. The appearance of this man could mean Charlie did, in fact, save Alex and help him escape. The mysterious man does not confirm his identity, but his eye patch and knowledge of Lake III indicate that he knows more than he should unless he is Alex.
In likelihood, Lake III tried to help Alex when his parents abused him, and Charlie’s father wanted to kill him. We don’t know for sure, though, if Charlie’s dad was ever involved. If the sexual abuse never happened, there would be no reason for the Lakes to be involved. On the other hand, Lake II may have thought his son was involved with the kid inappropriately because his son’s desire to help Alex or the Moulins and the Moles concocted the entire thing. In any case, this unknown man leads us to believe Alex survived and was saved by Charlie Lake III. Where he has been living, we will never know.
The True Story
The film is loosely based on Albert Shin’s own childhood experiences. His family owned the Niagara Gateway Motel near Clifton Hill. He has memories of what he suspected might have been an abduction on the Niagara River. Like Abby, Albert was very young. He vividly remembers a man grabbing a boy and throwing him into the trunk of his car, where he beat him with a tire iron. Albert also remembers him yelling at the boy to be quiet. The problem is he isn’t confident it actually happened because so many years have passed. That indecision was the jumping-off point for the film as it centered around a child with potentially faulty memories and a propensity for dishonesty.
Will There Be A Disappearance At Clifton Hill 2?
As of right now, there is no movement on a sequel for the crime thriller. Written by James Schultz and Albert Shin, who also directed the film, it has not been greenlit despite strong critical reviews. Shin and Schultz have not said publicly they are interested in a sequel. However, all of that could change given the recent resurgence on Netflix. It is currently enjoying a Top 10 run, so anything is possible. Just ask Manifest that was saved from the trash heap thanks to unbelievable numbers. For now, enjoy Disappearance at Clifton Hill on Netflix right now.
As the Managing Editor for Signal Horizon, I love watching and writing about genre entertainment. I grew up with old-school slashers, but my real passion is television and all things weird and ambiguous. My work can be found here and Travel Weird, where I am the Editor in Chief.