Reely Bernie Horror Fest: Lake Mungo – 2008

Origin/Director: Australia/Joel Anderson

Viewings Tally: This was my second viewing! It had been five years since, and I wanted this to fulfill my found footage subgenre in my horror lineup.

Synopsis: After 16-year-old Alice Palmer drowns in a local dam, her family experiences a series of strange, inexplicable events centered in and around their home. Unsettled, the Palmers seek the help of a psychic and parapsychologist, who discovers that Alice led a secret, double life. At Lake Mungo, Alice’s secret past emerges. [Letterboxd]

Reely Bernie’s Take: I’m a sucker for the found footage horror genre. I was privileged to be in one of the first audiences for the premiere of The Blair Witch Project with my middle brother in 1999. Missing posters for the “subjects” of the movie were plastered on the exterior walls of the Mayan Theatre in Denver, and when my brother and I walked into and ran out of that dark room, we genuinely thought we saw “found footage” of three victims kidnapped by a mysterious (and unseen) witch in the woods. Even when we did more research on the making of the movie and discovered that we were watching real, amateur actor/filmmakers, the movie forever left a mark in our memories – both haunting and forever nostalgic. I still shudder when I think of that time, and I bet my brother remembers where we ate right afterwards to keep discussing what we had just seen.

Almost a hundred of found footage movies have been made ever since. Some are very good (Paranormal Activity, Cloverfield, Creep). Some are very bad (The Devil Inside and anything Paranormal Activity after the first two). Most are just copycat formulas of a formula that has exhausted itself to the point of self-aware boredom.

Lake Mungo is a decent one that falls apart at the end. Clocking in at only 85 minutes, the first 40 are the work of brilliant execution. Realistic, ghostly images of the deceased Alice Palmer appear in realistic, ghostly scenarios, and I found myself gulping without control. Playing like a television documentary series you might see on Dateline, the acting is so seamless that the subjects’ storytelling alone gives you chills.

I don’t want to spoil anything because I believe this found footage entry is worth a look in the dark at home, but I have to point out that the last 40 minutes unfold haphazardly, offering off-the-wall explanation after another and losing believable captivation. It’s too bad: The potential in this little Australian gem is in its minimalist, relatable news feed, but its downfall is in its improbable delineation of images.

I tried to suspend disbelief, but, my oh my, this one spooks beyond convincing territory…

The Shot(s) that Won’t Let Go:

Not much but enough…(gulp)

Final Score: 2.5 far-fetched concepts out 5 promising ones

Did you see this one? What’s YOUR favorite found footage movie?

Thank you for reading,

Reely Bernie

21 thoughts on “Reely Bernie Horror Fest: Lake Mungo – 2008

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  1. I watched this one tonight…it was good…there were creepy parts to it no doubt. Like you said they moved away from halfway believable to out there.

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    1. Nice! Yeah, the first few “found” images are chilling with the static and low quality capture, adding to the realism. But, to then find an image within an image pushed the spook factor too far and engaged in an unnecessary and outlandish explanation. Still, I could hear myself gulping when the first shots popped up. It was like discovering a ghost for the first time! Glad you saw it! Found footage flicks are still fun to see 🙂

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  2. I would like to see this, even if for just the spook factor and that first 40 mins. Aside from the ones you mentioned, I really enjoyed the horror anthology V/H/S. Also enjoyed District 9 though fair to say it’s more sci-fi than horror. And though most hate it I enjoyed the sci-fi horror Apollo 18.

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    1. So agree: V/H/S did a fantastic job, and I loved District 9.

      Yeah, Lake Mungo is definitely worth the first 40, especially if you’re in a dark room, no distractions, volume turned up. I have to admit, I got the chills, and I had already seen the thing! The second 40 are subjective. I didn’t like their direction, and they pushed the “believability button” too many times, but definitely worth a look!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. [Rec] was really good, and you’re right: It was one of the pioneers! I’ll check out your post this morning! It’s funny how found footage technically got started in 1999, but it boomed most 10 years after that (?)

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      1. Ten years sounds right to me. The 2000s saw some good ones (Rec, the first Paranormal Activities). After Cloverfield took it big budget there didn’t seem anywhere else to go. And really, when you get down to it, the form is necessarily quite limited. There’s only so much you can do. The spin-off forms like the computer-screen movies (Searching) were even more gimmicky.

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  3. This sounds great Bernie! I would love to see this…adding another one behind relic.
    The Blair Witch movie was great. I watched it twice…one time in the day and it was so so but the next time at night…it worked at night. I too was wondering if it was real or not. The whole thing was brilliant!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Nice, Max. Yeah, I miss the “gimmick” when it was still fresh. My brother and I were lucky to be a part of a test audience in Denver, and we had absolutely no clue “Blair Witch” was all preconceived and acted. It was an extraordinary experience I’ll remember for the rest of my life. Going into it again with my dad who already knew it was “fake,” the experience was dulled and meh. However, I continue to visit these found footage flicks every year, and they still give you chills. The first half of Lake Mungo will definitely make you gulp. It’s too bad the second half just goes too far-fetched…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. The website the Blair Witch Project had was great also…explaining the complete story…they made it look real.
        They sure had a great idea doing it.

        Good I know I will enjoy it….I’ll get back with you on the Relic and this one.

        Liked by 1 person

          1. Yes! I saw it around a year or two ago…I had to think but yes. I remember the last scene of the movie perfectly. That mask isn’t scary of course but it’s creepy as hell…Damn I forgot I saw it….and I remember the dogs in the movie.

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