Sunday, February 17, 2013

Lake Mungo (2008) - Joel Anderson

The first several minutes of Lake Mungo make you feel as if you're watching just another horror mockumentary, a subgenre made famous by The Blair Witch Project back in the 90s. Director Joel Anderson starts out with some creepy old black and white photographs that set the tone for what's about to transpire. Nothing new here, but still, it's effective. 

As the story begins, 16-year-old Alice Palmer mysteriously drowns during a family outing. The story consists largely of on-camera interviews with members of Alice's surviving family: her parents and teenage brother Matthew, who live in Ararat, Australia. But there's much more to come. In the midst of the family's mourning, Matthew discovers photographic evidence that Alice's ghost may be inhabiting their home.  

I won't tell you much more than this, only that information about Alice - including some of her secrets - comes to light, leading her family to question what might really have happened to her. What makes Lake Mungo so effective and so eerie is the realization that some of our friends and loved ones who have passed away may have carried secrets we never knew about and probably shouldn't know about. Sometimes too much information is more than just uncomfortable; it's disturbing and horrific. 

Although it contains some genuinely creepy scenes, Lake Mungo will be too slow for some viewers. At just under an hour and a half, it may seem glacial, but Anderson paces the film expertly and gives us actors whom we swear are the real thing. It's rare to find a filmmaker who understands that the slow, progressive accumulation of terror and dread is much more disturbing than slash and gore. 

As much as I liked Lake Mungo, on a personal level, I can't watch it again. I often talk with people about the right movie at the right time and for me, Lake Mungo was the right movie at exactly the wrong time. I recently experienced a death in my immediate family and for whatever reason, I decided to watch this film last night; maybe because it had been sitting in my Netflix queue for a long time, maybe because it's about to be removed from the Instant Queue. It was a mistake.  

Maybe a future post will cover more on "The Right Movie at the Right Time," what to watch, when to watch it, and maybe more importantly, when not to watch it. I think what I need next is something funny and classic, like Bringing Up Baby or A Night at the Opera. So, while I can highly recommend Lake Mungo, I won't be watching it with you.    4.5/5  

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