Film review – Lake Mungo (2008)

lakemungo_no_title_eA “series of extraordinary events” that befall a grieving family in country Victoria is the subject matter of this Australian horror/drama. After the drowning of 16-year-old Alice Palmer, her family begin to believe that her ghost has returned to haunt them. Rather than present the Palmer’s story as a traditional fiction film, writer/director Joel Anderson convincingly presents Lake Mungo as a faux documentary, consisting of mock photos, interviews, voiceovers, news footage and amateur video.

Similarly to The Sixth Sense and The Orphanage, Lake Mungo utilises a traditional ghost story scenario to explore the nature of grief. The use of different types of film stock and videotape to depict ‘real’ footage evokes The Blair Witch Project while the thematic blend of supernatural elements with the film’s suburban-gothic subplot suggests a strong nod towards Twin Peaks (not to mention the use of the Palmer surname).

Anderson makes full use of the chilling effect where a supposedly normal image suddenly becomes very frightening when the camera zooms in to reveal something sinister hidden within. The entire film may be a construct but the skilled direction, writing and acting give Lake Mungo a spooky ‘realistic’ authenticity.

Originally appeared in The Big Issue, No. 334, 2009

© Thomas Caldwell, 2009

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