Lake Mungo centres around the life, death and after-life of Australian teenager Alice Palmer(Talia Zucker) and how her family comes to terms with her untimely demise. Stylishly filmed as a documentary, her family and friends are interviewed when her death prompts a series of seemingly supernatural events.
As the otherworldly occurrences continue, the family become convinced that their daughter’s ghost is still present and cling on to this hope. The plot thickens as they discover more and more about the secrets Alice took to her grave and her troubled double life.
Intricately crafted, the feature is supported by her brother Matthew (Martin Sharpe)’s ‘amateur footage’ and photography that help reinforce the feeling of watching an actual documentary and not trained actors, thus making the footage all the more unsettling and the mourning of the family palpable.
It is a technique which has been lapped up by modern films; from The Blair Witch Project through to the Rec and Paranormal Activity franchises and here, Joel Anderson shows exactly how much effect it can have when employed correctly. However, whereas the focus for this technique has previously been purely on the creation of unsettling horror, Anderson also uses it so that the audience feel the family’s anguish as real emotions, removing the divide of recognisable fiction.
The film is an intellectual weave; wholly engaging and thoroughly convincing as a real life documentary – a feeling which is only furthered by excellent performances from the cast in front of camera. Alice’s family and friends deliver a natural script, mimicking conversation, aided by the snippets of family outings we are privy to.
As Australia’s film industry forges ahead with innovative horror flicks such as The Loved Ones, Lake Mungo is a sound cornerstone on which to build for the future. This usually overlooked nation is fast proving to hold an abundance of talent and flair on both sides of the camera.
Best performance: Rosie Traynor – The cast are all as capable as each other, but an highly emotional scene with Alice’s mother(Traynor) reading excerpts from her diary leaves a painful representation of a mother having to move on without her child.
Best line: ‘I feel like something bad is going to happen to me. It hasn’t reached me yet but it’s on its way’.
Best scene: Seeing what Alice uncovered at Lake Mungo – sure to have you checking over your shoulder as you dive behind the sofa.
Watch this if you liked: Paranormal Activity, The Last Horror Movie, Seven Pounds
Lake Mungo is set for a 2011 reimagining from the makers of The Ring.