Sometimes I prefer a mystery over a horror movie, and “Lake Mungo” delivers this with only a minimal amount of supernatural elements.
The film centers on the drowning death of Alice Palmer (Talia Zucker) at the aforementioned lake, and it’s told in a “mockumentary” style through interviews with her family, friends and a psychic named Ray Kemeny (Steve Jodrell). Her parents, June (Rosie Traynor) and Russell Palmer (David Pledger), and brother Matthew (Martin Sharpe), are the primary focus of the interviews.
Some strange occurrences around the house begin shortly after Alice’s death, and the family brings in Ray to try and assist them with finding some answers. The occurrences, some of which are caught on film, become the catalyst for several discoveries about Alice’s life and the secrets she kept.
The documentary style worked very well. It felt honest, like I was watching an actual account of what occurred. You occasionally heard the interviewer, but not enough for it to be obtrusive, just enough to give it a more realistic feel.
The cast was up to the task here, especially Traynor and Pledger as Alice’s parents. Their emotion felt true at every step, and I sympathized with the feelings of loss and anger they conveyed in their interviews. Jodrell gave psychic Kemeny an almost fatherly feel. He never felt creepy or false, just helpful and sad for this suffering family.
There is some loose camera work when family movies are shown, and this is appropriate within the framework of the film. There is also some cellphone footage that is pretty critical, but it’s not overused. It’s just enough for us to build more of the story behind Alice’s despair.
There is a tense creepiness that runs throughout the movie. As I learned more about Alice and her life, I felt increasingly worried for the family. You never knew if they were going to make it through their grief until the very end. There’s also a nice little wraparound narrative that I found very pleasing.
WHAT DIDN’T WORK
The film had only a few scary moments, but no real jumps. There’s an element of haunting here, but it’s never heart-stopping or fully explored. I don’t think “scary” is what this movie was shooting for, so if you’re looking for frights, look elsewhere.
The gore level is low. Alice’s drowned body is the only thing we really see. There’s very little language, if any. This is really more of a mystery than anything, and if you like a low simmer of tension that never boils over, this is worth checking out. Gorehounds and hardcore horror types may be a bit let down.
GIVING CREDIT WHERE IT’S DUE
“Lake Mungo” was written and directed by Joel Anderson. It stars Rosie Traynor, David Pledger, Martin Sharpe, Talia Zucker and Steve Jodrell.