Lake Mungo is a 2008 Australian film about 16-year-old Alice Palmer, who disappears while visiting the lake with her family in December of 2005. But when the family begins to experience strange happenings in their home, it starts to become apparent that Alice does indeed still live here after all.
Lake Mungo is one in a long line of films which are presented in a “mockumentary” style. This particular presentation is one in which the family is interviewed, with flashes of video and still photos which slowly unrolls the story for the viewer. There are no shocking “jump” moments, and the whole thing is a series of “talking heads” sitting around discussing their experience or involvement with the Palmer family and Alice in particular. While the film seems to drag at times, it’s also strangely riveting and kept me glued to the screen for the duration (a brief hour and twenty-seven minutes, though it did seem longer at times).
The hook and catch was simple: because the film doesn’t make any secrets about being a ghost story, the audience immediately is keyed to modern ghost story tropes. I kept looking in the background for movement or glowing images of floating faces, objects moving on their own, doors closing of their own volition, mobiles spinning unwound, yada yada yada. Problem is, those are tropes established by movies like Paranormal Activity and its unbelievably stupid sequel (for a “found-footage” film?! seriously?!). Lake Mungo isn’t so ham-handed and clumsy. Being a non-mainstream, non-Hollywood production, amazing care is taken to present the story. The ending builds beautifully and closes out with some very nice touches.
And don’t shut the movie off before the credits finish rolling either.
Lake Mungo is a good film, sensitive and spooky at the same time, and while the actors have little opportunity to be actors, they managed very well to communicate the feel of ordinary people being asked about someone they know and some tragic events and experiences beyond their direct interaction. Well done, I thought, and despite the central character’s minimal input, she nevertheless does a great job of doing her part to bring the audience in.
I recommend Lake Mungo to anyone interested in seeing a good, solid ghost story with a bit of a twist in its presentation. It isn’t hard to see why the film garnered so much attention internationally – including the hideous threat of being “remade” by Hollywood film companies, which is something I wish could be outlawed – and was praised so highly. I rated it five stars on NetFlix, and while it wasn’t as amazing and wonderful to me as Let the Right One In, it still charmed me into believing if I find the DVD somewhere for less than $20, I’ll add it to the permanent collection.
Copyright 2011 DarcKnyt, All rights reserved