It comes that time of year again where those without the need to spruce themselves up in all sorts of household waste to configure some sort of costume for a night on the town may just want a quiet night in, turning the lights off, ignoring those trick or treating nuisances and stick on a good flick in theme of the holiday: Halloween. It’s also a great time of year to stick out something on social media for others to offer up some ideas of horror films you may or may not have seen, hence forth the use of these next reviews. All of which i personally feel are vastly underrated but either mere fun for a good scare or simply a genuinely good watch that may need a little more recognition than what it did upon initial release.
First up: Lake Mungo.
The film, released as part of a horror film festival titled After Dark Horrorfest in 2010, is an Australian supernatural horror that will leave you utterly breathless. Simply said.
A grieving family buries sixteen-year-old Alice Palmer after an accidental drowning in a local dam. Not long after, the family begins experiencing a series of strange and inexplicable events in their home. Seeking the help of a psychic and parapsychologist Ray Kemeny, secrets of Alice’s double life come to fruition, leading the family to where things for Alice began to spiral into oblivion at an ominous school-based trip in Lake Mungo.
The film plays out entirely as a faux documentary, casting complete unknowns in the roles of which the film centres. Without having stated so, however, belief of the film’s authenticity would be wholeheartedly accredited without an inkling of doubt. Lake Mungo is startling in its attempts to be completely genuine, and as the film unravels in small but shattering moments, the probability of forgetting this isn’t a real documentary on the Discovery channel is highly likely.
Nothing feels particularly forced or overly over-the-top like other ghost stories. The element of grief protruding through the entire duration is abounding, and the characters that are feeling the struggles of it are sincere and overwhelming in portraying such feelings. Rosie Traynor plays Alice’s mother June, David Pledger as dad Russell and brother Matthew, played by Martin Sharpe. All names that are completely unknown but with such a ferocious realness about them that is unheard of. Interview-like scenes are interspersed with propped-camera footage in the house capturing ghostly goings on, or pictures taken by brother Matt who’s attempt at sourcing the phenomenon leads to further insight into the enigma that was his sister.
As secrets unfold in droves, this supernatural thriller takes an enormous turn into a game of elimination. Luckily, it follows the formula that the rest of Lake Mungo has abided by: attempting originality. Director and writer Joel Anderson’s talents have completely gone to waste as this was and is his sole feature, but at least giving his all in this doesn’t go without recognition. It literally dives down the rabbit hole as Alice’s former life appears to be nothing that we expected, and as those final scenes take us to the wild, ominous plains of Lake Mungo (the real Mungo National Park located in south-western New South Wales in eastern Australia) you’ll have absolutely no idea what kind of shit is about to hit the fan.
It’s best to say as little as possible as the trials and tribulations this family go through are a bleak joy to watch. It’s a slow build but not without complete merit. The unearthed secrets are genuine and the progressive narrative is ominous, chilling and brims with overwhelming sorrow, all culminating in a finale that’s alarmingly polarising. This will stay with you for quite some time.
Dir: Joel Anderson
Scr: Joel Anderson
Cast: Rosie Traynor, Devid Pledger, Martin Sharpe, Talia Zucker, Steve Jodrell
Prd: Georgie Neville, David Rapsey
Music: David Paterson
DOP: John Brawley
Runtime: 87 minutes