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John’s Horror Corner: Lake Mungo (2008), an Australian documentary-style “ghost” film exploring guilt and loss.

June 12, 2019

MY CALL: Not to be confused with found footage, this documentary-style horror film is completely objective and circumvents the jumpy, silly and annoying tropes of the genre. This would best be described as interesting and spooky, and easy viewing even for those who would otherwise dislike horror movies. MORE MOVIES LIKE Lake Mungo: Not that it’s similar in nature (but more in tone and style), fans of this film should look into Searching (2018). For more mockumentary-esque or documentary-gone-wrong horror I’d strongly recommend The Last Exorcism (2010), Grave Encounters (2011), Grave Encounters 2 (2012), The Taking of Deborah Logan (2014), Demonic (2015), Ghost Stories (2017) and Butterfly Kisses (2018). For more Australian horror movies, try Razorback (1984), Wolf Creek (2005), The Howling III: Marsupials (1987), Dark Age (1987), Rogue (2007), Black Water (2007), Wyrmwood (2014), Charlie’s Farm (2014), Cargo (2017) and Boar (2017).

It’s rather common to find documentary films being made by the main characters “within” found footage horror films. Such docu-style horror tends to present (found) footage of the process by which the filmmakers produce their documentary (such as B-reel, outtakes, or “the making of” segments), in addition to the common components typical of the documentary itself. In doing so, we generally get to know the filmmakers in the introductory footage before their investigations are deep underway.

Quite to the contrary, this docu-style film is not a found footage film at all. In fact, it feels like an actual documentary you could watch on your TruTV or Crime-themed cable channel. The film quality varies from TV news clips to witness interviews/testimonials or reenactments like an episode of Unsolved Mysteries (1987-2010). To that end, it also feels more like a mystery/thriller than it does horror, despite the citation of probably supernatural events during explorations in their own grief. But rather than jettisoning all attention down a rabbit hole of suspicion over a ghostly image or such, this documentary remains 100% straight-faced and objective.

After the tragic loss of their daughter Alice, the grieving Palmer family begins to experience unusual events around the house. More subtle things like sounds from Alice’s room, nightmares and artefacts in photographs, develop into greater oddities such as inexplicable bruising and visions of their deceased daughter in the house. Their observations even lead them doubt their daughter’s death months after identifying the body themselves!

The family eventually turns to a psychic, performing a séance, and subsequent investigations that all begin to reveal more about their dear departed Alice than they ever knew… or cared to know.

The discovery of Alice’s drowned body is accompanied by some mildly disturbing The Ringesque imagery. But there is little horrific or disturbing content in this film. Instead it relies on excellent intrigue, writing, style and mystery as its driving force. Writer and director Joel Anderson (his only feature film) leads us down an untrodden path in which the “horror” takes the backseat in its own genre, but not necessarily to its own detriment. However, viewers should know what they’re getting into—something of a slower pace, yet boasting excellent pacing in terms of cultivating intrigue.

This would best be described as interesting and spooky, and easy viewing even for those who would otherwise dislike horror movies.

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