Alice kept secrets. She kept the fact that she kept secrets a secret.
When their sixteen year old daughter, Alice, drowns in the local dam, her grieving family begin to experience a series of strange and inexplicable events within their once peaceful home. With the aid of a psychic, the Palmers set out to discover the truth behind Alice’s secret past.
Australian filmmaker Joel Anderson makes his feature debut with a psychological horror mockumentary cast from the same mould as The Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity. Lake Mungo is a fabricated “real-life” story that combines dramatic re-enactments, talking heads interviews and found footage (that old chestnut). Where the self-filmed style worked previously for the genre-defining Blair Witch, because it was so astutely anchored to the narrative, Anderson’s horror is possessed by an amateurish craft that reduces his project to little more than a television news special.
While it provides bundles of realism, it really lacks the scares. There’s an unsettling atmosphere that lingers over the course of the narrative, but the mood is one less of terror, but more of anxiety. The engaging mystery begins to unfold, but there’s not the substantial pay off the audience crave or deserve. These problems are not aided by the narrative; a labyrinth of ideas that is never sure in itself which direction it wishes to go. At one turn Anderson is dismissing the supernatural elements only to return to them with erroneous belief of creating a dramatic conclusion.
The really disappointing thing is that there is real potential for a creative addition to the popular genre. Lake Mungo could have been a truly spine-chilling, blood-curdling ghost story with an embedded thematic examination of bereavement, acceptance and moving on. Unfortunately these inviting themes are never truly explored and the convoluted plot twists are misdirected down the wrong path and only serve to alienate the audience. Sadly for this Australian film there are many better, more frightening horrors out there.