It's films like "Lake Mungo" that make me want to watch "Unsolved Mysteries" again. Using stories and a technique that has been around for ages (being the ghost of a recently lost loved one haunting a family for truth and the documentary approach respectively), this little Australian gem really works its socks off to make everything work as well as it does. Although the film does suffer from its own devices at times, "Lake Mungo" makes the faux-documentary approach for film making look like play time as it easily drags its audience in. One more solid After Dark Horrorfest to chalk up for the fourth year.
Alice Palmer was your average young girl. That is until she mysteriously drowns while she is on a picnic with her family at a nearby lake. Her family, including her parents, brother, and various other close friends, are stricken by the loss of their beloved young women and in their grief begin to see and hear ghostly apparitions around their house. Whether or not these ghostly images and noises are real becomes only part of the larger questions that come to surface as this family finds that Alice wasn't everything she seemed and held some dark secrets of her own.
What impressed me so much about "Lake Mungo" was how well the film makers (mostly Joel Anderson and his writing/directing abilities) were able to utilize the style to create a pretty intense atmosphere and attention grabber of a film. With its cleverly structured use of pictures, old and new footage, and of course the ability to have the audience looking one way just to have them shocked to see something somewhere else in the frame, this film crafts itself mightily with what its working with. Having a stellar cast that somehow makes it feel like a legit documentary helps an insane amount too as they discuss prior events whilst acting out both. In this sense, "Lake Mungo" nails the style.
The film does fall prey to its own devices though as its attempt at selling a 'true' story makes some of its supernatural tendencies fall short in the latter half of the film. The film transitions for a ghost story to an alternative family drama towards the end and even with its clinging attempts to revive the 'ghostly' aspect of the film with the final interviews and duel commentary, it loses some steam her. Still a good movie in that sense with how they worked it like a real documentary, but I felt they could have pushed it even more.
"Lake Mungo" succeeds at doing what so many other films have failed to do with this faux-documentary style. Although it does crumble a bit towards its finale, the ride was a fun and clever one, making other films that try this pale in comparison. Its a surprising win for me to watch and a definite must watch for a change of pace for your average ghost flick nowadays.
BONUS PRAISE: The final credits (the beginning at least) were the best part of the entire film. I won't give the trick away, but it makes you want to instantly skip back to the beginning and start re-watching the film and pausing it quite often. It was a wonderful and creepy way to end the film.
Written By Matt Reifschneider