Dir. Joel Anderson (2008)
A girl, Alice, drowns while swimming at a dam with her family. They start to see her around the house, capturing several encounters on tape. The family consults with a psychic, and as they deal with their grief, they try to resolve the mysteries surrounding her death
CAUTION: MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS
Lake Mungo is one of the 8 Films to Die For from the After Dark Filmfest, so I knew immediately it was going to be good: I don’t think I’ve seen a bad film from them yet. I had heard whisperings that it was the scariest film in quite a while, and that it was done in a mockumentary type style, which, to me, generally tends to be hit or miss. This one, though, was quite real. My son, who was watching the film with me (until he inexplicably fell asleep) actually asked me if we were watching a real documentary.
A story that is essentially about a family dealing with grief after losing their daughter, Lake Mungo is about a girl who drowns at a dam while playing with her brother, and after burying the body, things get worse if you could believe it. Her mother begins to have terrifying dreams about her being back inside the house, and the family's camera-obsessed son captures pictures of the daughter while filming around the house. After consulting a psychic and setting up the mandatory seance, the family discovers various pieces to what quickly becomes a mystery about the nature of death and how it comes to people.
It becomes a sort of Dateline mixed with Where's Waldo.
Hyper-realistic and very unsettling, Lake Mungo is one of the better mockumentaries I've had the chance to watch. There's very little about the film that appears fake, and if you didn't know you were watching a horror movie, you could easily mistake the film for a Investigative Discovery show. We get interviews with the family, friends of the victim, and people around the periphery who help to shed light on who Alice is, what she was like, and why she continues to be seen around her town even after her death. She's captured in not only her family's photos, but also various other people's videos and pictures around the dam where she died. Her father, who identified the body, begins to wonder if he's mistaken. We see the evidence along with the family, and it certainly looks real, like what I would imagine capturing a ghost on camera would look like. There are no over the top scares, no jump scares, just outright creepiness throughout. I chewed my fingernails raw while watching, and ghost stories usually just don't cut it for me. Lake Mungo is downright scary at times, another nice change for me. You begin to feel like you've seen everything after a while, and you begin feeling a little invincible when it comes to what is and isn't scary. When you've seen so many people's body parts dissected, and seen so many scary creatures jump out of the shadows, nothing really gets to you anymore. I guess what I'm saying is, I've seen some shit, man. And yet, occasionally, you come across a movie like Lake Mungo that actually takes you off your game and rocks you a little.
Like this scene... Holy shit.
Not only is it a surprise when something like this happens, it sort of gives you hope again. There's only so many horrifically bad films you can watch before you start to think that you're never going to see a good one again. Thankfully, I really try to pepper in some that I know will at least give me my money's worth, so I tend to avoid the total disillusionment with the genre as a whole, but Lake Mungo is still so absolutely refreshing that it makes you believe again. The way that the film explores grief is excellent. We know that this family is suffering, and part of us is sure (especially after the revelation about the son's recording habits) that the family is either crazy or seeing what they want to see. But then we're left wondering if seeing the ghost of your loved ones is more malevolent than benevolent. She just seems like she can't be up to any good. The mother in the film though, as scared as she might be, is so grateful to be able to see her daughter again that she doesn't care about being scared, she only wants to see her daughter again. The film is profoundly sad, along with being intensely scary. It's a trip, and a treat for any true horror fan.
Who this movie is for: Found footage fanatics, True crime lovers, Mungo Jerry
Bottom Line: Lake Mungo is a truly scary mockumentary, one of the best of its kind, and I highly recommend it. Search it out, the people talking about it are absolutely right. It's one of a kind, and it's fantastic, one of the better found footage films in existence. It's realistic and sad in the absolute best ways.