If you want to find out how to make a movie absolutely drenched in a dark, foreboding atmosphere then you could do a hell of a lot worse than using Lake Mungo as your study guide. Written and directed by Joel Anderson, this faux-documentary has one or two jump scares in the mix but tends to use most of the screentime to give you goosebumps and make you jumpy even when there’s nothing apparently scary visible onscreen. In other words, it’s an example of the best kind of horror that people too often forget about when wanting to simply dismiss the genre – it’s intelligent, scarily plausible in many ways and the content is delivered without too many cheap shots scattered throughout the whole thing. I like it, other people love it, and I suggest that you get your hands on it ASAP if you’re a fan of the “less is more” approach that has worked so well in the deserved classics of horror.
The basic story revolves around a family dealing with a tragedy. Alice (played by Talia Zucker) died at a young age, leaving a distraught mother, father and brother. The situation gets stranger, however, when it appears that Alice may still be around in some form, as photographic evidence appears to show. However, there are many more developments and twists as the story of Alice and her family is told by all of the main players.
Undeniably well executed, Lake Mungo is easy to accept as a standard documentary concerned with supernatural events. The performances are all excellent (Martin Sharpe as the brother, Mathew, and Rosie Traynor as the mother give the best performances but it’s unfair to not save some praise for David Pledger, Steve Jodrell and all of the others who take a turn in front of the camera), the look and feel of the thing is very much in line with this kind of feature, balancing the facts with one or two “sensational” revelations, and the creepy and impressive audio work is . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . creepily impressive.
I am very much in the minority here but I feel that Lake Mungo disappoints slightly with a final act that seems more contrived and careless than anything in the preceding events. There is still an abundant atmosphere of dread and tension but it’s undermined by some standard horror genre trappings that feel out of place. Having said that, it’s still not enough to completely unbalance the whole film, a smart and spooky horror that more than deserves the loyal audience it has been reaching over the past few years.
WRITER/DIRECTOR: JOEL ANDERSON
STARS: TALIA ZUCKER, MARTIN SHARPE, ROSIE TRAYNOR, DAVID PLEDGER, STEVE JODRELL
RUNTIME: 87 MINS APPROX