Take a Drink: whenever you see Alice, dead/alive/unsure.
Take a Drink: whenever a plot turn changes your expectations.
Take a Drink: whenever you feel pity for the family.
Take a Drink: whenever the camera starts to slowly zoom in.
And if you wanna get wasted:
Finish your Drink AND Do a Shot: for Alice’s cell phone footage of the night at Lake Mungo.
By: StarvinMarvinMcFly (A Toast) –
There’s a very interesting dichotomy of horror movies that comes further into picture in the Halloween marathon months.
On one hand we have the fun, awesome, ‘hanging out’ horror movies. These are B-movies, crappy slashers, monster movies, and usually older stuff. You don’t have to worry about being scared with these; it’s more to get grossed out, laugh at the dialogue, and play a drinking game to all the many errors and clichés you find. These are great to marathon in October, as they leave no lasting impression on your psyche, unless you’re easily impressionable.
The other group of horror movies is actually scary, and there’s a reason why. The crappy horror movies are funny because you can see the cracks, and you know it’s a movie. The pieces don’t come together, because they’re usually horribly made, and you can see through the façade. The horror movies that work are rooted in truth. Something tragic happens. The movie makes you feel for the characters, and you will find yourself involved, caring, – and scared. These are not as popular in an October marathon because they’re simply not as fun. They’re actually horrifying. Go figure.
Now, people have been decrying the “death” of the horror genre for some time now, but like anything people have said is dead, they just haven’t been looking in the right place.
Lake Mungo is an Australian horror drama written and directed by Joel Anderson. It was part of the AfterDark Horrorfest, a set of indie horror movies released bi-yearly at the time when foreign (especially French and Korean) imports were all the rage here. Most of them sucked. Most horror movies do tend to suck. But the possibility is always there to find a diamond in the rough, and Lake Mungo is certainly that.
The plot concerns a family who is torn apart when their daughter drowns in a lake during a vacation. It’s told in a mockumentary format, taking the shape of something you’d find on Discovery Channel or a similar channel. Soon after their daughter’s death, creepy things begin happening around their house and they begin to wonder if these things have an earthly explanation, or if someone came back to visit.
You would never know this was fiction. The mockumentary/found footage format, completely done to death over here, is perfected in Lake Mungo. The actors who play the family members achieve a realism that is no easy task. Here is where the horror works – in the empathy you have for the characters. When Alice starts to show up around the house, you can feel the depressing shift in the family’s mentality. Where Lake Mungo differs is how it focuses on what could be causing this ghostly phenomenon. Is the family just so desperate to have their daughter, their sister back, that they’re having delusions, seeing and hearing things? Are they actually haunted by the spirit of their lost child? It’s the mystery at the heart of the movie, and learning the truth takes you places you might not expect. This story is a lot more tragic than it lets on.
It’s also a lot scarier. It starts slow and eases into the supernatural stuff, but once it gets going it’s a full on atmosphere of tension and dread. You won’t find many jump scares here, though there’s one towards the end that rivals anything I’ve ever seen in a horror movie. No, a simple slow zoom into an unmoving image is the only weapon in this movie’s arsenal, but you will never be more scared watching a slow zoom. When Alice begins to pop up everywhere, you’ll see what I mean. Suspense and a tragic doom-filled atmosphere are the name of the game here and both are palpable throughout the movie.
There might be a little too much here. The downward spiral of the family as they find out what their perfect daughter was into is positively Lynchian, and might even be a little hard to accept for a film like this. Perhaps that’s the point, but after the second or first big drop of a shoe you start getting a little bit fatigued by all these whiplash plot developments.
Also, depending on your view of the proceedings as you interpret them, the ending could either be yet another resounding shoe drop or a big missed opportunity for some closure. That probably feeds back into whether you feel the events become overkill, but the movie shades one way, then flips you around and then back to square one before yet again dropping another course correction on you as the credits roll. As stated before, it’s a bit much.
Lastly, there’s one too many mood shots of the Australian outback, the night sky, dark bedrooms, houses. They spend altogether too much run-time on those kinds of shots.
Lake Mungo is a revelation, one of the more affecting supernatural horror movies I’ve seen. It’s a meditation on death, guilt, the afterlife, and all the weird parts of it we’re still not sure about. It’s got a lot to say on the connection of family and how long that lasts, and whether or not our loved ones actually come back to us when they die or if we just want them to because they are sorely missed. It’s not exactly cheery territory but it is thought-provoking and very well done.