When 15-year-old Cassandra (Alexa Mechling) awakens to find herself on display in a casket under the vigil of her elder sister Clara (Ava Psoras) in their home. As a weak Cassandra tries to communicate her desperate attempts to be seen and heard are perceived as terrifying supernatural occurrences by her sister, forcing her to consider the possibility that she may actually be dead.
There’s a lot packed in to “Occurrence At Mills Creek”, probably too much to be really suited to the short film format. It forces an almost dream-like disjointed ambience onto the story, vignettes of events and memories which don’t quite gang together. It’s more like an extended teaser for a longer feature – which may be the purpose it serves as there is a feature-length version of “Occurrence at Mills Creek” in production at the moment.
In the short, there’s an attempt to introduce too many characters, too many jostling subplots and character beats with the end result that some of the potent imagery and intriguing thematic elements are drowned out by the competing hubbub. The performances are adequate but there’s a slight stiffness to the dialogue and a feature-length may provide the cast more time to breathe a sense of authenticity and nuance into the emotions.
There’s a lot to unpack here that makes the idea of a feature-length exploration of the themes of family, secrets and guilt appealing and provided Swanson’s storytelling can be matched with a less indulgent cinematic eye, the full length “Occurrence At Mills Creek” has a good chance at developing into an atmospheric and compelling supernatural thriller.