Some people have all the luck, as do some families. However, anyone familiar with the "Unbreakable" franchise knows that everything has an opposite - and this particular family, is the Samuel L Jackson to the Bruce Willis. For those unfamiliar, I'm talking about tragedy and bad luck. Case in point? Sisters Clara and Cassandra are having a rough go when considering their family life. First their parents split up and then... their mother dies. But that's not all that's in store for this shrinking family - things are about to get even smaller... and very sinister.
There are more and more people in the world that will instantly relate to a seemingly never ending string of tragic events. At first glance, that's what Don Swanson's "Occurrence At Mills Creek" seems to be all about - but there's a lot more going on here. It's fairly certain that loss plays a big part here, but we've also got some real game changers introduced within this short film. Perhaps Swanson's film is a true supernatural, gothic-style story - created to creep out it's audience. Perhaps what seems ghostly is actually some form of mental illness, slowly invading our leading ladies grey matter. Maybe both - or maybe neither, who's really to say because at the end of the day? "Occurrence At Mills Creek" is only meant to set the stage for things to come. There are quite a few questions and more than a little bit of bloating conceptually. But one thing is clear... there's some real potential here. Both in the look, delivery and possible plot direction.
So yes reader... there are questions. Both conceptual and delivery related. I was informed this is an introduction of sorts, to a larger film. That's all fine and good but honestly? If you have to explain to a viewer, that a short film is actually akin to the opening act of a larger film, than why bother making/releasing the short film at all? Why not wait and start the ball rolling when things are finished? You shouldn't have to justify a movie as an introduction, and should always follow the show me, don't tell me ideal. As a stand alone short, the average viewer will get the basic idea here... but that's about it. There's a lot of little things happening that complicate what should be a straight forward story. If this is indeed the prelude, it should not be presented as a short film at all. Right?
Letting all that slip aside for the moment, there is definitely something here. That's why I rated it a three stars because as a stand-alone film, it's really hard to take in. The look, and even the mental feel of Swanson's production, is almost physical at times. I had no problem seeing where things were going, mood-wise, and the atmospheric tension was fabulous. This is all captured nicely with some at times, excellent camera work and pacing. Anyone will have no problem seeing what this short film could be - even if things get a little muddled.
The acting is another point of contention for me - going from good to bad in the blink of an eye. There was just something unnatural about a few of the scenes. I wouldn't even call it cheesy, or truly bad... just unnatural. It's one of those things I can't really explain, but still feel it's an issue. If anything, I'd suggest numerous dialog rehearsals with the cast, for the main feature. Iron out anything that sounds or feels odd. Sometimes, what looks good on paper doesn't sound good in real life.
There's not really much else I can say without revealing more than I probably should. If you step into this film, knowing it's not actually a short film, I think you'll be just fine. If you assume it's a self contained story - you could be in for a rocky ride. Even then however, most would agree the film definitely has it's moments to shine - and oodles of atmosphere. Clearly "Occurrence At Mills Creek" is a name to keep checking in on. Potentially, we could have an excellent film coming our way. As for releasing this piece as a stand alone short film? I'm not sure I would have done it. Then again, I don't make films. Three out of five stars.