Lake Mungo


Oct 30, 2012

Lake Mungo (2008)
Director: Joel Anderson
Writers: Joel Anderson
Starring: Talia Zucker, Rosie Traynor, and David Pledger

The Plot: Alice Palmer is a spirited young girl who is beloved by her family and is a popular girl within her community. Unfortunately, tragedy strikes when she and her brother go swimming while out with her family. The young girl drowns, and her family are left reeling from this horrible event. As the weeks start to pass and her family tries to come to grips with this death, strange events start to happen around the Palmer home. This leads to the family setting up several cameras within the house and eventually ghostly footage begins to show up on tape. As the family tries to make heads or tails of this information, they are startled to find that their lovely young Alice also led a double life that few knew about.

The Review
Lake Mungo is a title that I have had on my personal queue for quite some time. I had heard about the movie sometime last year from a movie podcast, but for some reason I had never actually sought it out with any sort of fervor. Yet, with it being October, it seems to be the perfect time for exploration. After having it recommended again by a few friends, including amongst them my buddy Ken from SoGoodReviews, the fire was finally lit under my rear end and I decided to sit down with Lake Mungo this evening. A faux-documentary about a haunting, Lake Mungo is an offshoot of the recent “found footage” craze that has become so prevalent. Many viewers are already tired of this subgenre, but I must confess that I have a tremendous weakness for the genre. I love the mix of reality and over-the-top horror, and for my personal taste it can lead to fantastic cinema. Yet, as much as I do have a love for this subgenre, the horror movie landscape is certainly lacking in “quality” titles to point to. Amongst the most mainstream efforts, Paranormal Activity and Quarantine/REC are probably the biggest examples. You could also throw Cloverfield in with this group, although it is a hybrid of horror and science fiction. Outside of these big names, there are few smaller films that have truly captured the attention of the world. Lake Mungo has been described as potentially being “that” movie, and after having watched the film – I find it hard to argue against that idea.

As far as faux-documentaries go, Lake Mungo is ridiculously convincing. As a viewer, I tend to be a bit on the skeptical side when it comes to faked documentary footage. Poorly designed television segments are rarely enough to make me dislike a movie, but they do usually arouse a scoff from me as a viewer. Yet, Lake Mungo is so clever that it almost always avoids these minor pitfalls. The television reports in the movie, presented by fake anchormen and women, look completely authentic. The filmmakers also compiled a very thorough backstory by using photographs and video evidence that all look aged enough that I honestly would not blame a misinformed audience member for possibly thinking this was a real documentary. Certainly during the first hour at least. Even when video clips start popping up in the movie, showing details of dark apparitions walking the hallways around this “haunted house,” the sheer straight-faced nature of the movie makes it incredibly easy to buy into the plausibility of this project. I am far from a sucker, but the overall quality of this material is intense.

This realism certainly accounts for a high percentage of the scares that are to be found in Lake Mungo. Even though the movie is devoid of traditional “jump scares,” it instead tries its best to creep its viewers out in a classier fashion. Without relying on big supernatural scares or bait-and-switch moments where cats jump out of closets, the movie is forced to rely on atmosphere and capitalize on the audience’s fear of the unknown. Similar to the best scares found in Kairo (aka Pulse) by Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Lake Mungo relies on slow moving shots that focus on supernatural events that are not distinctly visible to the audience. In shots that at first appear to be mundane, this “documentary” points out the creepy ghost-like image that is reflected in mirrors or through shadows. In keeping the visuals to a minimum, the audience manages to develop their own fear and bring it to high pitch. This creates an unnerving atmosphere that is rarely duplicated in cinema, and it makes Lake Mungo an unprecedented success.

Although Lake Mungo does indeed do numerous things right, and it absolutely gave me the chills while watching, there are some glaring issues to be found in the film. The one slight issue that I seem to have with the movie is the weird way that the plot seems to build layers upon layers of coincidental information. This can be expected within any supernatural film, especially one dealing with a haunting, but there are numerous coincidences in Lake Mungo that start to make the plot feel weak. For instance, at least twice in the movie we are given shots that are supposed to reveal evidence of a ghost, but later in the movie we revisit the same exact shots and they reveal something entirely different. As the movie progresses, we ultimately dig into the same footage on two or three different occasions and the scripting begins to feel a bit OCD. As if the filmmakers couldn’t shoot other sequences or create new images to grab the attention of the audience, the coincidental information starts to stack up and this creates some of the weaker moments in an otherwise fantastic bit of cinema.

The Conclusion
Sure, Lake Mungo is far from a perfect movie. However, I have friends who count it as one of thee best horror films of the past decade, and I would be hard pressed to argue against that. It is a movie that will develop a larger audience as the years pass on. As long as it isn’t swallowed up by the “remake” that has been hinted at, this is a movie that will likely become a Halloween staple. Lake Mungo is absolutely worth checking out. It gets a four out of five, check this one out!

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