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:
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,