December 21, 2009

DVD Review: Lake Mungo (2010)

"Lake Mungo was far different that I expected it to be, and way better than I had hoped..."

Sub-Genre- Supernatural
Cast Members of Note- Talia Zucker, Rosie Traynor, David Pledger, Martin Sharpe, and Steve Jodrell.

Without giving away too much about the plot (because it twists and turns a lot, and ends up being something more than its premise suggests), Lake Mungo is about 16-year-old Alice Palmer; a sweet girl that goes missing on a family outing to a local swimming hole, and the creepy goings-on that follow after her disappearance.

No more fun for you, 'cause you're dead.
Alice's family begin to experience a series of strange occurrences centered around their home, prompting them to seek the help of a local psychic to help them make sense of it all. As the story unfolds, it becomes clear that Alice had some dark secrets that ultimately may have lead to her doom. A series of clues and happenings lead the to the film's title location, Lake Mungo, where her secret life is exposed, leaving the family reeling and trying to piece themselves back together.

I'll piece you back together, honey. I'm nurturing like that.
To reveal much more than this would be doing a disservice to the film, so I'm going to shut up now. I will say that at more than one time during the movie, I found myself getting goosebumps and screaming at the hairs on the back of my neck to stop standing up. That actually happened.

Anyone who actually goes to a place this creepy, kinda has it coming.
Part of January's upcoming After Dark Horrorfest, Lake Mungo (along with the excellent Dread), gives me a giddy sense of expectation for what this year's fest could end up being. Finally, we are getting more than second-rate B-Movies that aren't really all that good or scary in an American Horror Film Festival.

I'm surprised at how much I enjoyed this movie. You see, it's presented to us, the viewer, as a straight up Documentary ala something you would see on TV Shows like Unsolved Mysteries or Cold Case Files. It's obviously a fictional drama, but you'd never know it if you just caught in on TV one day. The subtle quiet of the movie is what makes it work so well, as characters looking at photographs and videos proves to be more chilling than anything else that happens onscreen.

The real terror in this movie comes from the seedy goings-on in a quiet suburban neighborhood, what those actions lead to, and how they can damage someone beyond repair. The theme of knowing your own doom is unsettling as well, and especially with the way it's explored throughout this movie.

This picture pretty much captures the feel of the movie.
While essentially a ghost story, the spirits of Lake Mungo aren't malevolent and no one is ever really threatened by any supernatural doings, which just struck me oddly. It's more like The Sixth Sense or The Oprhanage that let's say a Paranormal Activity, in that that scares come in other, less threatening ways. As much as I liked it, I was kinda hoping for a vengeful ghost or something. It's a minor gripe really.

There's a ghost in this picture. Look close.
I don't know if American audiences will embrace this movie as they really should. I mention this because Hollywood is already planning to remake Lake Mungo, which to me seems unnecessary. This movie stands on it's own as a great film, and an effective Horror movie, but the lack of jump-scares and "incident" means that it probably won't make sufficient bank in this country.

Oddly enough, it's getting a Theatrical release in January as a part of the After Dark Horrorfest, but it's still getting remade. I hope it makes money and the remake just fades into oblivion, but then I always do tend to dream too big.

There were a few disturbing images, but the gore quotient was very, very low.

She looked better alive.
We get one of the creepiest threesomes ever, and some teenage Aussie girls in bikinis. For the most part though, the movie is very tame, aside from its themes.

Middle. That's all I'm saying.
Australia is a very creepy place. Also, it's best to just avoid swimming holes altogether.

And morgues. Avoid those too.
Lake Mungo is an atmospheric, disturbing, creepy, and even sad movie in some ways, and it deftly weaves all of those elements together to pull you in and leave you thinking about it long after you've finished watching. Little more than regret, guilt, and dark secrets manage to make a movie with no violence or threatening antagonists give you goosebumps and make the hair on the back of your neck stand up, which to me seems quite a feat.

If this is an example of what we can expect when the After Dark Horrorfest IV hits Theaters in January, then it's going to be a good month. Go and see this when you get the chance.


Lake Mungo is available now on DVD and VOD.

Talia Zucker... I'd love to... say how great she is in this movie.


  1. Thanks! I would surely have overlooked this one if not for your review. I'm generally skeptical about the quality of movies issuing from my native country.

  2. Ok, just got done watching this movie and I was blown away. If I had to use one word to sum up this movie it would be 'authentic' -- the way people speak and behave in this movie is exactly the way that average people from similar backgrounds in this country speak and behave, and everything else from the news footage, to makeshift memorials just rings true to real life, especially in the rural/remote areas of Australia. All of this made it very easy to suspend disbelief while watching and become thoroughly immersed in the creepy goings-on -- something that NEVER happened while I was watching Paranormal Activity, which was in many ways, a similar film.

  3. I felt much the way that you did about this movie, other than I'm not very qualified to talk about the regional dialects of Australia. :)

  4. Hey man, with a spoiler warning on top can you PLEASE post a comment explaining what happened in the end? I loved the movie and this is one of the creepiest movie I've ever seen but I'm just lost with the ending.


    You mean the bit at the end with the psychic, Ifaz?

    It was just showing that Alice had more than one premonition of her own impending death.

    When she's talking to the psychic, she says she could feel her mom in her room looking for her, but thought it was an odd dream of some sort.

    After she had died, her mom told the same psychic that she could feel Alice event hough she wasnt there.

    So basically, the whole thing is about someone knowing theyre doomed to die soon, even if only subconsciously, and how it effects everyone.

    Is that what you meant? If not, let me know.

  6. That's what I wanted to know. Whoa, looks like I failed to get pretty much the whole theme then! Thanks man, appreciate it.