Clocking in at just under 20 minutes, Occurrence at Mills Creek is a short film about a fractured family, death, grief, and ghosts. Writer/director Don Swanson combines eerie images and tragedy in a flashback-heavy narrative that is very different from his previous feature A Wish For Giants or the short What Was Lost.
Clara (Ava Psoras) is used to losing people. Her father Victor (Joe Fishel, The Dark Knight Rises, Potential Inertia) left when she was a child. Her mother Emily (Betsy Lynn George, Petticoat Planet) died of what appears to have been cancer. Now on the day of her sister Cassandra’s (Alexa Mechling) funeral her father has returned. But so have the spirits of her mother and sister.
It’s not entirely clear just what has happened and what is going on. Occurrence at Mills Creek isn’t a film that shows all its cards. Questions are raised and left unanswered. People’s motivations are left unclear. There’s even a sinister and cryptic warning from aged Aunt Estelle, played by MaLynda Parker, a veteran of George Romero’s The Crazies and Season Of The Witch.
The film’s approach makes sense when you realize that Occurrence at Mills Creek is actually a teaser for a feature of the same name. A post-credits message tells us to expect it in 2020. I’m certainly interested in the feature after seeing this. A lot of scenes have the feel of an old school ghost story which we don’t often see these days.
Taken as a stand-alone film, Occurrence at Mills Creek will be frustrating to some viewers because it leaves so much unresolved. They might want to wait for the feature. Others should check it out if they get the chance. I was allowed to see the rough cut of a scene from the feature. I can’t say anything about its contents, but it does fit in well with the feel of the short.