is a unique little horror film. Formally it lies somewhere between the reality-tv "Paranormal Activity" and HBO's "Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills." It's a ghost story at its heart, but it has the look and smell of any recent documentaries.
This is a film that doesn't rely on cheap cat scares or gross-out gore. There is no torture porn in Lake Mungo's cinematic DNA. It has a story to tell, a story with twists and turns and revelations and red herrings, and it tells it superbly.
The film begins with slow shots of South Wales, Australia. The Palmer family--father, mother, brother, and sister--are enjoying a lazy summer afternoon at a local lake (not Lake Mungo, that comes later). The sister, Alice, disappears and is found dead by police divers. The family is devastated. They each retreat into their private griefs. But then the twists start slowly unfurling. The mother visits a psychic who uses hypnosis to unlock dreams. The brother captures what looks like a ghostly image of Alice on film and becomes obsessed with photography. Cameras in the house capture odd images, but what are they?
As soon as you think you know what's happening, another twist snaps into place and the ground under your feet shifts. It's beautiful, really. Was Alice troubled? Was she murdered? As the film goes on, signs point to a secret buried at Lake Mungo
. Haunted by Alice's death, the family travels to the park and confronts Alice's secret.
It's difficult to write this without giving spoilers, but it's necessary.
Every year I make a point of watching all of the After Dark Horrorfest
films. The festival typically offers 6 to 9 movies and the plot, style and quality run the full spectrum. There is a complete stinker every year, some films with heart or great visuals and there is always one that stands out far, far above the rest. In 2010, that's Lake Mungo.
As I'm writing this I see it's been slated for a 2011 remake for American audiences. But you should probably just watch the original. It's available right now on DVD and on Netflix.
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