Don Swanson, Joe Fishel, Betsy Lynn George
I've always been a fan of the slow-burning, eerie atmospheric type movie that really takes its time with the characters and their situations. It's an old school way of doing things that you either really love and appreciate, or just don't seem to get. No mile a minute editing, no break-neck pacing, only layer upon layer of building tension and foreboding atmospherics. "Occurrence At Mills Creek" is the textbook example of what I've just described, and I loved almost every minute of it. When it comes to horror, for me the old school approach is always the preferred road to travel. With that said, however, Don Swanson's film is most definitely catering to a niche audience - but what it does, it does well.
"Occurrence At Mills Creek" begins with not one, but two deaths very close together - forcing the leading lady Clara down a very dark path. Swanson's film does deal with death, but there is so much more. Guilt and depression play major roles in this film, and let's not forget the supernatural elements added for good measure. After the initial sequences with her mother, sister, and funeral Clara eventually heads off to college and it's here the real meat and potatoes of the grief and depression aspects come into play. We also have her father getting gravely ill and to be honest, Clara just seems to be cursed. People are worried about her and in case you're wondering reader, yes, Clara has tried to end it in the past. The supernatural elements of this film don't really come into play until later, although this plot arc doesn't come out of the left field. The hints have been there the whole time.
This is a dark movie and what happens in the final act of the film is really just gravy on the already delicious meatloaf. "Occurrence At Mills Creek" is a horror film that hides its true nature with other aspects such as grief. Ava Psoras as Clara really does deliver a standout performance, but she is not alone. This is the type of film that requires raw talent to pull off and although things are not always perfect, everyone seems to have pulled their weight. I especially enjoyed the awkward behavior inherent in the Victor character, and Clara's roommate seemed genuine and true.
I also must make mention of both the camerawork and background scoring. These two elements add a very gothic, creepy feeling to the film that really helps deliver on the slow-burn goodness. It's not just the story that works here, it's the combination of everything that makes this film intense - even when there's really no need to be intense. It all makes you expect something to constantly happen - and keeps your nerves tight. I've hinted at it above and will repeat it again, the actual supernatural horror could almost be taken away completely, and this would still be a great film.
My final thoughts are really quite simple. If you are one for slow-burning atmospheric movies, you really can't go wrong with this film. The more into the genre you are, the more you'll enjoy this. However, if you prefer the summer blockbuster style of filmmaking, "Occurrence At Mills Creek" maybe a little slow for your tastes. From me personally, a big thumbs up to the cast and crew of this film... I really loved it. Four and a half stars.