So rarely am I scared of horror films. I mean I often jump during the film when the killer comes into the frame and the score plays into over drive but that isn’t real fear. Real fear is when days after watching the film you find yourself checking over your shoulder at night or lying in bed imagining something at the end of your bed. Lake Mungo an Australian horror film is possibly the first horror in a long time to cause me actual unexplainable fear once the end credits rolled.
Lake Mungo is filmed as a mockumentary, interviewing family and friends of a girl named Alice Palmer (the Twin Peaks reference isn’t a coincidence) who drowned at a family picnic. It then follows the events after the death when there is a supposed haunting of Alice at her family’s house. The synopsis for the film wouldn’t thrill any horror seeking fan, for one there are no on-screen deaths and only very little action on screen. While watching the film there are no ‘jump scares’ but a build up of atmosphere which becomes suffocating by the end.
Lake Mungo is quite plot heavy. At first Alice’s brother sees Alice’s ghost in photos he takes and what follows is his families discovery of Alice’s secret past. Thanks to the casts extremely naturalistic and engaging acting the mockumentary style isn’t seen as a hindrance but rather a thrilling narrative. The film leads up to a climax in which they find Alice’s phone buried at Lake Mungo where she had previously gone on a school trip. It is here when the family play back what Alice had filmed the audience are shown one of the most terrifying and haunting images I’ve seen in a horror film for a while. To describe it wouldn’t do it justice but believe me this image stayed with me long after the film finished.
That is the magic of Lake Mungo, while watching it it creates a fear which you just can’t shake off once it ends. It’s methods might be sneaky but it’s an impressive feat for such a small budget film to terrify its audience through intelligent creativity.