Lake Mungo is one of those films where the chills come gradually rather than in short sharp shocks, just likethe similarly-themed Paranormal Activity.
In the small rural town of Ararat, southwest Victoria, 16-year-old Alice Palmer drowns while swimming with her family at a local dam. After her body is recovered and she is laid to rest, the family start experience strange happenings in their home and become convinced that Alice has returned as ghost. They then seek out the help of a radio psychic (Steve Jodrell), who discovers Alice kept secrets about her personal life from her family before she died. Alice’s brother Matthew then sets up a camera to capture his sister’s ghostly presence – and the results are quite unsettling…
Filmed in the documentary style made popular by the Kiwi-made TV paranormal crime series Sensing Murder, Lake Mungo is made up of a series of interviews with Alice’s family and friends, interspersed with some arty location shots: mainly the starry night sky and a sunset-drenched countryside.
The cast’s deadpan delivery of the dialogue is eerie to watch (particularly Alice’s dad David, who looks like he is going to break down and cry but never does), while the plot twists are surprising (particularly Matthew’s big admission).
But there are some odd moments (the mother’s obsession with breaking into her neighbour’s houses for instance is somewhat absurd). With this in mind, and the raw Aussie accents in abundance, I almost expected the film to turn on its head at one point and become a parody of the genre, in the same vein as the Australian mockumentary Angry Boys. But it doesn’t.
Instead Lake Mungo takes itself very seriously and – despite some of the ideas being a little stretched-out – becomes one of those genuinely unsettling, creepy little chillers that will have you watching the shadows in your own home long after the credits have ended. Another creepy moment for me was seeing my old university tutor playing the psychic.