Summer of Horror: Lake Mungo Spooky, spooky stuff

For whatever reason, I always thought that Lake Mungo was some kind of giant alligator or monster movie. I had heard praise for it off and on over the years, where it sort of hovered near the bottom of my watch list, but it was learning that Mike Flanagan (Haunting of Hill House, Oculus, others) frequently recommended this to people that got me to finally see it. And man, I was wrong to wait this long.

To set the table, Lake Mungo is a 2008 Australian ghost story presented in a faux documentary format. A long, long time ago, I wrote that the found footage format, already overstaying its welcome with annual Paranormal Activity sequels, could be saved by changing things up. One of the suggestions I made was using found footage as part of a documentary-style horror film to assist in the authenticity. And that’s exactly what Lake Mungo is. What’s more, it is extremely convincing. I dare say, you could show this to a person who didn’t know better and they would likely assume it WAS real.

The story is about a family whose teen daughter drowns in a lake (NOT Lake Mungo, actually) while on a family trip. Soon after, they start noticing strange phenomena in their house and become convinced her spirit is trying to make contact. The nice thing about the way the plot is presented is that most of it is revealed through interview footage of the family and others, where pieces of “found footage” and photographs are shown intermittently, as would be the case in a real documentary. Although one character does set up a video camera in the house at one point, the movie takes care not to overdo this and ruin the illusion of authenticity. The subtlety makes it more convincing and therefore, more creepy. It’s a golden example of “less is more”.

The second act contains a few strange plot turns that briefly threaten to collapse the movie, but they mostly turn out to be red herrings. Perhaps one too many of them. But the last act, in which we finally learn what Lake Mungo means, brings it all back around. It is, for lack of a better word, a very spooky movie. You can see it for free (with ads) on Tubi.

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