Occurrence at Mills Creek (Short) – Review

Cassandra awakens to a nightmare as her pleas to be seen and heard by her sister Clara are taken as supernatural occurrences.

Rating: NR (Some violence)
Runtime: 19:45
Produced by: Spruce Films

This review was requested back in July and being involved in multiple different projects and weddings (yay bills) I had completely neglected to forward the request to the current movie review guy Cory North. So, my mistake, and here is my review of the short, proof of concept film, The Occurrence at Mills Creek.

I’m not going to stick to the typical “Good, Bad, Ugly” format because being a proof of concept short that is essentially the first few scenes of the feature, there’s only so much I can pick out and as I write, I’ll lead myself into other thoughts that will probably flow from good to bad to ugly and back to good anyway – so here we go…

Two sisters mourn the death of their mother as the film opens. The elder sister, Cassandra, calls their brother(?) to inform him (a day later, and we never see him again). The film then ends. Not really, it just goes into a three minute long opening credit sequence that looks and feels like end credits. Just made me chuckle. Moving on…

We’re then dropped sometime into the future where Cassandra is attending the funeral of her younger sister. She confronts her father for not being there for them, then we’re treated to memories, and finally, the bait for the feature.

This whole film could be cut down to the last three minutes and would fix everything I didn’t like about it and would make me want to watch the feature length when it is released this year (2020). The last line “everybody thinks this is where she actually died…” was perfect and if I didn’t have the rest of the weight of the short to carry I would have been hooked. There is a whole lot of setup, hints and clues, and (possibly) red herrings thrown into the 17min of actual video but it doesn’t address who these people are other than their names or why we should care about them.

I’m guessing the family is connected to the occult or the supernatural somehow by grandma saying cryptic lines like “You’re not ready but you will be” to Cassandra. We’re never offered anything to sink our teeth into or give us reason to keep watching other than passive curiosity, which also hurts the pacing because the 17 minute run of video feels way longer.

The acting isn’t bad. It’s nonexistent. Alexa Mechling and Ava Psoras feel like two marionette dolls void of emotion just saying words to each other. They’re both teenagers so either they both have very little acting training or Swanson just completely neglected to direct them, or anybody, because the problem is everybody but grandma and the priest are flat and dull so I have to assume the fault lies with the director. Even creepy douchebag pedo isn’t enough of a caricature to excuse bad acting. He’s just…flat.

Other than the acting, most of my criticism is rooted in the fact that I don’t care at all about these characters or why the drama surrounding them matters. This was probably just a bad collection of scenes to shoot as a proof of concept because even though I liked the last three minutes, that was all that was needed to build interest.

Give me
Cassie at Clara’s funeral
fighting with her dad for not being there for them
Mother dying
Creepy pedo hitting on Clara
Clara’s body floating in the water while Cassie says “everybody thinks this is where she actually died… “
Cut to black. Roll Credits.

That would have had me pumping my fist and writing a very different review. Unfortunately, I don’t get to do that here. It was a decent looking short with good music and honestly, what I feel like has the makings of a nice mystery thriller, however there is just way too much fat on this bone.

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