Monday 12 December 2011


A genuine stand-out in the overcrowded 'found footage' genre, Lake Mungo is out now on DVD. Check out the trailer and my full review, next...

Following the mysterious drowning of Alice Palmer, her family and friends offer their thoughts about what might have happened to her, as well as the strange goings-on that have occurred since her death one year ago. Using family photographs and camcorder footage, Lake Mungo tries to solve the mystery of Alice’s death and looks at the effect her death has had on her grieving family.

Told in the style of a fake documentary, this Australian horror contains some of the most troubling scenes I’ve experienced this year. What starts off as a simple mystery soon develops into a nerve wracking exercise in scaring as much bejeesus out of you as possible. It clearly knows what its influences are (the family name being Palmer is a sly nod to Twin Peaks, for example), but this is more than just the Australian answer to Paranormal Activity.

Using a combination of talking heads and home video footage, the story of Lake Mungo slowly fleshes out from a standard tragic tale of a dead girl into a tightly knitted web of lies, doubts and unexplainable coincidences. Using vox-pops of Alice Palmer’s friends and family, Lake Mungo convinces by being a believable documentary and ghost story, earning its scares by doing as little as possible. Following the same route of Paranormal Activity, a camera is set up in the house to capture the strange bumps in the night, but with a drastically different outcome that you’ll never expect. And then, just when you think the film has ran out of steam and given up the ghost too early (literally), it continues to shock you with a new approach. The title, although at first seemingly irrelevant, does eventually play an important part in the life and death of Alice Palmer. Trust me, Lake Mungo is not a place you’d like to visit any time soon.

As well as getting an incredible amount of mileage out of how creepy old VHS can look, the trump card Lake Mungo plays over and over again to great effect is the slow zoom. Never before have I seen so much tension be racked up from a simple still photograph, playing with what you see and then revealing something completely new that you didn’t notice before. Every time the camera started to zoom I found myself involuntarily tensing up, aware that what I was about to see would be both shocking and spine-tingling scary.

You’ll either find yourself scouring the frame looking for something new, or be looking away in fear. It’s a truly great device that offers something truly terrifying in a way I’ve not experienced from any other film of its ilk, marking Lake Mungo out to be an original horror that deserves to be seen. See it now before the upcoming US remake ruins the surprise.


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