Directed by: Don Swanson
Written by: #DonSwanson
A familial ghost story, short film Occurrence at Mills Creek from filmmaker Don Swanson is loaded with guilt, terror, and anguish. Breaking a sense of reality for the central character, the audience attempts to piece together the true tale of loss being told.
Ava Psora plays Clara, a small-town girl who has recently lost her mother. Attempting to ride the grief train with her sister Cassanda (Alexa Mechling) and estranged father Victor (Joe Fishel), a number of disturbing and strange sequences begin to patch themselves together, revealing a number of hidden secrets in this family. As the truth starts to form it may be that Clara is about to lose someone else.
Clumsily plotted and not suited to the short film format, Occurrence at Mills Creek feels like a prelude or movie trailer to a feature length thriller. Indeed, that’s what the situation is according to the film’s website and one would hope that with a longer running time, Swanson would be able to piece together a more coherent outing. There are simply too many characters being crowbarred into the piece, all with equally fascinating tales to tell, that audiences are going to need to attend viewings with the full IMDb Cast & Crew printed out like a hymn sheet.
The performances are wooden and at times stale. Psora does well to keep her character’s sense of intrigue throughout yet viewers are unlikely to warm to her enough or care about her journey. Many of the supporting players struggle to elevate the TV-movie style dialogue beyond amateur theatrics. Which is a shame, because there is a thrilling yet complicated storyline here that had the script been more lucid and intelligible there could have been a lot of meat to chew for the acting talent. As it is, there was a plethora of emotional histrionics without any nuance or subtlety.
Drawing on themes of family legacy and guilt, Occurrence at Mills Creek does hold depth when it comes to powerful topics. Abuse and neglect are just a couple of issues that arise and Swanson seems bold in his storytelling that should a feature length version emerge I would be interested to see what the end result would be without the need for an overstuffed short movie. It would need to be more skillfully crafted than this, though, and stripped of the indulgent emotional heft for something more lithe and compelling.
Watch the official movie trailer for the short film below.