How did a documentary manage to weasel its way into Splatter Time Fun Fest 2013!
Written By: Joel Anderson
Directed By: Joel Anderson
I didn’t know what to expect from Lake Mungo. The only reason I knew about this film was because of positive word of mouth, most notably from one of the hosts of A Damn Movie Podcast, Adam Sherlock. I trust Mr. Sherlock when it comes to movies, and even moreso when it comes to horror. We don’t always agree, but I view that as a good thing. Still, when he personally takes the time to tell me I should check out a movie I take his recommendation seriously. I had Lake Mungo in the running for Splatter Time Fun Fest 2012, but for whatever reason I passed it over. Come selection time for this years festivities I decided it was best to pull the trigger, because to be honest my wait list of films to watch is so long that if not for Splatter Time Fun Fest I never would have gotten to Lake Mungo.
When the film started I was immediately taken aback. Like I said, I didn’t know what to expect, but it certainly wasn’t what the film delivered. Joel Anderson adopted a documentary style, and I’m not willing to call his film a mockumentary. There’s nothing being mocked in Lake Mungo, instead Mr. Anderson’s approach to presenting a faux documentary is very earnest and one hundred percent genuine. My wife even commented at one point that the film was doing a great job of giving the impression that it was a real documentary. Mr. Anderson uses the documentary approach to present real characters, people who seem like they are enveloped in grief and having trouble dealing with a major loss in their life. The actors all give fine performances, but I truly believe that Lake Mungo shines because of the steadfast documentary approach of Mr. Anderson.
There are a few twists in Lake Mungo, but that may be the one area where the film stumbles somewhat. The first twist was actually pretty ingenious, not a move I was expecting from what is essentially a ghost story. I even liked the final twist that deals with the first twist in a very interesting way. However, the twist in the middle that brings another set of characters briefly into play didn’t add much to the film. I realize the intention was to show the underbelly of the suburban life of the Palmer family and how things weren’t as happy across the board for them as they were presenting. Still, the film was fine without that twist, and I never felt that the film worked its second big twist into the narrative in a completely successful way.
I’m sure that some horror fans will be put off by Lake Mungo. It’s not a horror movie going for scary so much as eerie. In fact there’s only one scene that could be traditionally seen as a scary horror moment, but even that is underplayed in a delightful way. Early on Lake Mungo establishes an atmosphere of foreboding eeriness. The film builds and builds its atmosphere and adroitly uses the documentary approach to enrich the atmosphere with a feeling of truth. In terms of scares I much prefer the slow and eerie approach of Lake Mungo to the throw everything at the wall approach of some horror films.
Joel Anderson hasn’t made a film since Lake Mungo, and that’s a shame. It’s clear that he has an adept hand when it comes to horror, and it would be nice for their to be a new horror voice coming out of Australia. If Lake Mungo is his last contribution to the world of horror then that is sad. But, Lake Mungo is a fine film regardless of what else Mr. Anderson does with his career. The horror in Lake Mungo is different in an interesting way, and I loved the documentary approach. Let’s face the facts, we’re always complaining about the lack of creativity in horror (not a complaint I necessarily agree with) and the use of found footage. Lake Mungo is a horror film that uses found footage in a new and interesting way while being creative in its documentary approach to horror. Lake Mungo is a different horror film, but it’s also a great horror film that horror fans should definitely seek out.