Title: Lake Mungo
Director: Joel Anderson (If that is his real name!)
Country of Origin: Australia
Year of Release: 2008
Genre: Ghost Mystery, Tragedy
IMDB Link: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0816556/
‘Lake Mungo’ is not a typical ghost story. In most horror films, the ghost has long since died. This film focuses on the immediate tragedy and what is left behind.
A few lists and reviews on YouTube called it an underappreciated gem, prompting my roommate and I to watch it. I would say all of them show too much during their discussions. I heard about it a bit sooner, since I like to seek out highly acclaimed rarities.
We were thrown off at first by the mockumentary presentation of the film. We see very convincing interviews of the Palmer family (father Russell, mother June, son Mathew) about a year or so after a tragedy. This tragedy is the sudden drowning death of the daughter and sister, Alice. Her death is at first ruled accidental, but the family was never sure as she was very secretive. All of them have tried finding hobbies or glorified distractions, but to little use.
These interviews are cut with beautiful scenic shots of the town and surrounding area. I would say it kinda drags the film out, but also works to isolate and unsettle the viewer. We also see numerous photos and videos of the family from when Alice was still alive. Footage of the temporal present also has hidden creepiness for the attentive viewer.
Early on we meet a radio personality and parapsychologist by the name of Ray. He speaks often with June and records the sessions. June may have felt most affected due to the stunted relationship she had with her daughter. She was worried she never had a chance to tell Alice how she really felt. However, Ray may know more than he initially lets on.
Around the halfway point there is a segment what will make or break the film for you. To me, it almost killed the film and briefly destroyed the world it built. However, it gives eventual way to the ‘answer’ portion of the film. Like Higurashi, if you will. It is a tad sudden. I do want to provide a warning it leads to an uncomfortable scene involving Alice and an older man. Once you put the eyebleach away, the film becomes even more engrossing than before!
We are eventually, and finally, led to the titular location of Lake Mungo.
It is here we finally get the big scare that the movie has been leading up to. The film had been unsettling up to this point, but this scene gave me the biggest film scare of this year so far! It is scarier if you are up on your European folklore. It left me with a cold feeling that took me hours to shake off.
I will not give away the ending, but I will tell you how I felt afterward. This may be the first time I experienced true emptiness. The ending left me a husk of my former self. My roommate put on Markiplier’s ‘Try not to Laugh’ playlist, but it did not help at all. It took kittens, texting my friend, and the funnies to get back in a good mood. I think we even turned ALL of the lights on after we had them off. The closest thing to give me this feeling was the backstory episode of ‘Mushi-Shi.’
According to rumors this is Joel Anderson’s only film, save a few writing credits. My suspicion is his name could be a pseudonym. I really wish the crew makes another film.
My final thoughts are, find this film and watch it! We actually managed to find a copy at our public library. Just… be ready for a feels trip and maybe some eyebleach. There is also one of the most effective scares I have seen in a long time! I used to not scare easily, but viewings from this year have been a treat!
There is a plethora of similar awesome films! I can also talk about a Japanese response to ‘The Blair Witch:’ Noroi: The Curse. There is also a Canadian made for tv Thanksgiving special, with aliens. I also want to talk about a certain two part movie.
I am hoping to write again soon. A lot of my time is going into job hunting, and remaking my more professional portfolio to aid in that hunt. I am also trying to get back to art, but my surroundings make it difficult to concentrate.