Occurrence at Mills Creek gives a hauntingly creative answer to the question of what happens to a person when everyone around them begins to drop like flies and they seem to be the common denominator?
After losing everyone she has ever cared about, protagonist, Clara, played by Ava Psoras, experiences a pain so intense that she loses touch with the real world. Trapped in a mental purgatory, Clara begins to uncover family secrets that offer an explanation for her dark thoughts and distorted reality.
Marked by graphic imagery with a cool toned look that is drained of color and life, Occurrence at Mills Creek is visually inviting, and at times startling.
Director, writer, and cinematographer Don Swanson’s use of the natural environment in his shot set ups keeps the film engaging and stays true to the creepiness of the plot. With seamless transitions to flashbacks and mirages, the strong story arc is executed through the editing (Swanson), meanwhile the script lends itself more to poetic one-liners than plot exposition.
The biggest distraction from the story’s captivation is the dry acting that is seen at certain points of the film. When traumatic events play out, the overall acting lacks emotion and nuance. While it feels out of place at times, these lifeless performances, specifically seen by Psoras, work well in the end when Clara’s humanity begins to leave her.
Mark D’Errico’s score and Mia Zanoti’s song performances put life back into the film with an eerie yet ethereal soundtrack that resembles the dangerously alluring sounds of a siren. The incorporation of Zanoti’s velvety vocals into the narrative is one of the film’s greatest accomplishments. Her siren-like tone fits perfectly into the film’s theme of misleading facades of beauty.
While Occurrence at Mills Creek seems to be open to interpretation, an underlying message of how beauty and innocence can distract others from danger seems to unfold in Psoras’ character. Much like the tales of men at sea who meet their demise by the fatale charm of mermaids, Clara seems to be a cursed presence that no one sees coming.