Lake Mungo (2008)

After the brutal eye rape that was both Red State and Grave Encounters, it’s pretty easy to just give up on life. Oh yes, you think there may be light at the end of the tunnel but you secretly hope it’s a train ready to fart out your rather pathetic candle. And death is the subject of Lake Mungo.

See what I did there. That’s how you link.

Lake Mungo is a mockumentary (I hate that word) about a family coping with the sudden death of the eldest daughter. It’s also a ghost story. After Alice’s death, the family begin to see and hear things around their hiuse that suggest Alice is very much still in their lives. Hiring the assistance of a parapsychologist, they begin to uncover the truth of what’s really happening.

It’s very hard to describe the plot of Lake Mungo without making it sound like Paranormal Activity 4: Diminishing Returns. It’s also very hard because to give anything away but the bare bones and you ruin a truly unique experience for others.

The running theme of Lake Mungo is how one’s memories of someone are never really a true reflection of them. They’re a facsimile of what was. Everyone in this film has their secrets from Alice’s little brother to the parapsychologist. And director/writer, Joel Anderson, is in no rush to spill them. In contrast to its contemporaries, Lake Mungo is not 90 minutes of MTV camera angles, unnecessary gore and screams of ‘what the fuck was that?’ by overtly busty blonds. Following the conventions of a documentary, it’s a series of talking heads, intercut with home videos and news footage. It’s so pedestrian that when the surprises do occur they are evermore potent for actually standing out. No need for shrilling violins or incessent organ music to ram home the point here.

The performances by everyone involved are spellbinding and it’s very easy to get lost in it all to the point of questioning how fake this really is. The ending is a sucker punch and shows how intelligent films of this genre really can be if they’re not just out to make a quick buck or two. Yes, Grave Encounters, I’m looking at you again!

The sad news is that as this is an Australian film, it has had very little exposure over the last few years and an American remake is due out this year by the people who brought you the remake of The Ring. You really should make the effort to see the original. Dim the lights and allow yourself to be immersed in the moment. It really is worth it.

And stick around to watch the end credits for that last chill to the bones.

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