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Thursday, September 10, 2020

Review: Occurrence at Mills Creek

Director: Don Swanson
Screenplay: Don Swanson
Year: 2020

A little more than a year ago, I reviewed the short film “Occurrence at Mills Creek” from director Don Swanson, which was intended to be a preface to a full-length film. At that moment, I enjoyed the short film, and it seemed like a good idea to explore deeper. Now the moment has come to evaluate if the full-length is at the same level as the expectation created by the short film.

After the accidental death of her sister and then of her mother, Clara fights the anguish of her losses and her guilt because she believes to be the culprit of her sister’s death. While she is still grieving, Clara starts experimenting supernatural happenings, which she cannot distinguish if they are real or a product of her imagination. While she explores these events, she discovers they are tied to a family secret passed from generation to generation.

Like in the short film, the story that Swanson presents has several layers in topics as well as time periods that make it difficult to follow the sequence of events. In the full length, the problem is more prominent than in the short films, given that more elements are added that overcomplicate the development. The lack of visual cues that help you figure out the time frame is a hindrance to the movie. 

The technical part is another problem that cannot be overlooked. On the one hand, the music used during the movie is excellent, but the mixing quality leaves a lot to be desired. In several scenes, the music competes with the dialogues because it makes it almost impossible to distinguish what is being said. Also, the sound quality in the actors’ voices is awful and gives it an amateurish feel.

The movie’s script suffers from a lack of focus and coherent development that encourages the viewer to lose interest by not being able to follow the sequence of events. Similarly, many scenes and characters are added that have no relevance to the plot, making the story more confusing. As an example, in almost no scenes in which Clara’s best friend makes an appearance does she contributes something new to the plot, and the same thing happens with the hobby of the woman that handles one of the funerals, that comes out as interesting, but is never explored and ends up having zero relevance to the plot.

At the start of the review, I threw out the question that if the “Occurrence at Mills Creek” full-length film is at the same level that the expectation created by the short film, and the answer is no. The truth is that it doesn’t offer anything that takes what is shown on the short film to the next level, and that justifies expanding this idea, while a lot of what is added ends up affecting its quality. The idea managed in both films has plenty of potential but is not exploited mainly because of the lack of focus on a script that unnecessarily overcomplicates events to where it is hard to follow the plot.

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