This short film follows Clara (Ava Psoras), a young girl who loses both her mother (Betsy Lynn George) and her sister (Alexa Mechling) in a short space of time. After rebuffing her estranged father (Joe Fishel) and returning home, Clara experiences visions that reveal her role in her sister’s death.
Veteran short film director Swanson, who also wrote the film’s script, does manage to provide the occasional effective sequence, such as a riverside flashback confrontation involving Clara and her sister that uses the age-old rule of “less is more” to make its conclusion seem creepy without resorting to excessive gore. Unfortunately, the rest of the film is made up of cliched horror imagery (the dead mother and sister wearing ghoulish makeup, bathroom taps turning by themselves, ghostly writing on a mirror) that often betrays the low production budget.
The narrative is also somewhat rushed, mostly due to the limitations of the short film format. The relationship between Clara and her father is undermined by their cliched antagonistic dialogue and an unnecessary flashback sequence that spells out what should have been merely implied through the characters’ interactions. The performances also come across as wooden and stagey, with Psoras in particular unable to convincingly convey the nuances of her character as it develops.
Ultimately, Occurrence At Mills Creek wastes its potentially interesting concept in its somewhat lacklustre execution. Hopefully Swanson will improve on his ideas in his feature film expansion of this short, which is due to be released in 2020.