Lake Mungo

I am feeling like it’s a “found footage” kinda night. Question: What’s the one sure thing about “found footage” flicks? Answer: They tend to elicit emotional responses from viewers on par with political debates. It’s a love/hate thing. The Blair Witch and Paranormal Activity being two such stellar examples. In one camp, people are frightened beyond belief. The other camp would rather place their balls in a vice grip than watch. Me. I like them and they tend to have a further lasting impact on my psyche than regular faire– Lake Mungo included.

After Alice, a seemingly normal teen mysteriously drowns, a whole bunch of mysteriousness starts up. For most of the movie, it feels like a Dateline episode directed by Ken Burns. Very authentic. Very believable. Very well crafted. The story flip-flops between the family members, local townsfolk, police, and Australia’s most famous psychic. All of whom play their parts perfectly, adding to the level of realism the film presents.

Writer-director Joel Anderson does a fantastic job at keeping the viewer guessing. Just about every time I thought I figured out what direction the movie was going, he flips it around and introduces some new twist and plenty of red herrings. It’s like if you took every Dateline story twist and jammed into one movie. Some may find that obnoxious, but here, at least, it works exceedingly well.

Creepy images of Alice begin to show up in photos and the family slowly realizes that there was more to their little girl than they ever imagined. Slowly being a key word. The film is eerily quiet during the interviews, almost lulling you into dropping your guard before providing a jolt in the way of a new discovery or twist.

Lake Mungo conditions you to not take anything at face value. This both helps and hurts the film. On one hand, trying to spot “Alice” in the photos is quite amusing (roughly half the movie).  But eventually, it becomes easy to tire of trying to piece it all together when you are already expecting another twist.

The end of the film provides a thoughtful and rousing conclusion that was in no way explored in the movie. This doesn’t make sense other than to leave you with a lot of food for thought. Which it did for me. In fact, I had to turn on a few extra lights prior to taking my dog, Ash, out for his midnight stroll. That alone is a rarity (the lights, not the walk) and makes the movie a winner in my book.

Rating: 6.5/10

Snore Factor: ZZ (will keep you from countin’ sheep)

IMDB 2009


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