Alice drowns while swimming and her family begins experiencing inexplicable events in their home. The family hires a parapsychologist whose investigation unveils Alice’s secret double life and leads them all to Lake Mungo.
I heard about Lake Mungo for a while; it’s a found footage mockumentary horror movie. There have been plenty of people referring to it as one of the most underrated and overlooked horror movies, and in the years following its release has slowly become a sleeper hit. I have to say, that newfound love is well deserved.
At its core, Lake Mungo is a look at grief, tragedy, trauma and belief, and the way a family learns to move forward after a tragedy. It is a found footage and mockumentary movie, and while I know that both aspects are often seen as a gimmick (especially with horror), I think it works here. The reason for this is that it’s deliberately staged like a documentary and is committed to that concept. It’s not just a typical found footage movie in terms of story structure, nor is it just a camera crew staying in a haunted house while being spooked and surprised by random jumpscares. It actually felt like a documentary telling the story of a family going through a tragedy. It is filled with archival footage, family photographs and personal interviews, and they were used effectively; sometimes you forget it is a movie telling a fictional story. It is haunting and unsettling throughout, with a creepy vibe from the very beginning. However for me, I think it’s more sad and depressing than scary. So if you’re looking for more of a thrilling kind of found footage horror movie, I would recommend Cloverfield or Rec more.
The performances from the cast are very natural and realistic, mainly from the actors playing the family (Rosie Traynor, David Pledger, and Martin Sharpe). The interview scenes really ground the film in reality, and a big part of that were the actors, who felt incredibly authentic and grounded in their portrayals.
Joe Anderson’s direction is strong, and the movie is very well crafted. The budget is definitely on the lower side and is occasionally rough around the edges, but I think that works for the movie. The mockumentary style makes the movie feel real, especially with the grainy and low level of quality of the recorded footage and photos. There’s a lot of blink and you miss it imagery. Most found footage movies seem to have lots of jumpscares; not so much in the case of Lake Mungo however, there’s only one and it is earned. It has a great atmosphere and makes everything unsettling. The simple yet effective zooms of images and photographs are uncomfortable, especially in the instances where it seems to focus on ghostly imagery in the background. There is a very famous moment that this movie is particularly known for (you’ll know when you see it). Beforehand I watched the scene out of context and not knowing what it was about. However watching it in the context of the movie, it is one of the most unsettling and haunting scenes I’ve seen in a movie.
Lake Mungo well deserves its newfound following, a horror film that utilises its found footage and mocumentary genres to the fullest to create a grounded, unsettling and depressing viewing experience. If you like horror I think it is worth checking out. Even if you are sceptical about found footage horror, I highly recommend watching it.