Occurrence at Mills Creek

Occurrence at Mills Creek is a terrifying tale in the vein of an already completed short film that was designed to be the opening act of a full feature that follows Clara, a young woman burdened by guilt following the deaths of her mother and sister, as her reality erodes from the same strange occurrences that have plagued her family for generations.

Genre: Horror

Length: 19:45

Free To View

1 out of 5 stars

Producer/s : Joe Fishel, Betsy Lynn George

Director/s : Don Swanson, Noah Crissman

Writer/s : Don Swanson, 

Actor/s : Betsy Lynn George, Ava Psoras


Troubled waters

To be fair from the outset, Occurrence is not a self-contained short, but the first third of a feature film in the making. As it stands, it does lack the dramatic structure and resolution you’d expect from a polished short.

On the positive side, the technical quality is excellent for something produced on budget barely big enough to cover coffees and pizzas on set. There’s some good cinematography, making the whole thing very watchable.

On the downside, the script is built from bricks of cliché, which the actors struggle with varying degrees of failure to breathe life into. It’s watchable, but not listenable.

The pacing is uneven. After the swiftly told setup (two sisters, a dead mother, estranged dad; then one of the sisters drowns), there is interminable funeral scene. This suddenly gets weird, with dead mother and sister reincarnating alongside a strange old lady uttering “You weren’t ready child. You will be.” They all appear within 30 seconds, and the film has lost the opportunity to remorselessly ramp up the weirdness, shocks, and the empathy with surviving sister Clara. It’s not helped by ding-dong flashbacks and flash forwards. You mess with classic structures at your peril.

Empathy with Clara? She seems not to react to some disconnected, surreal, and just plain confusing events. If she’s not bothered, why should we be? With her heavy goth eye make-up and cold demeanour, she may not be the poor doubly-bereaved girl she first appears to be. But if she’s the baddie, who’s the goodie? You mess with classic protagonist/antagonist dichotomy at your peril.

I really hope that the finished feature will resolve all this, and be hailed as groundbreaking and innovative reshaping of the genre. But as it stands, it feels sadly like a massively overlong trailer.