Movie Review: “Lake Mungo” – Found Footage Done Right

Written by Angela June 12, 2014


The world was enraptured when the phenomenon of found footage/reality television seeped into the mainstream during the early 2000s. The formula, after all, seemed ingeniously simple: lazily edit cheaply filmed footage and promote the shitty product by using “reality” as a sinfully clever marketing gimmick. Over time, however, it became painfully clear that no matter how entrenched in “realism”, a story is a story, and therefore a cohesive narrative format is inescapably necessary in order to tell it. While many films failed to grasp this truth, Joel Anderson’s 2008 Australian horror film “Lake Mungo” is a sleeper hit that not only understands it, but uses it to scare the absolute hell out of viewers. Wimps, go no further—this movie is the scariest I’ve seen in a long, long time.

After the tragic drowning of fifteen year old Alice Palmer (Talia Zucker), a documentary crew commences the filming of what appears to be the occurrence of supernatural activity amid her surviving family members. If you think you’ve seen anything resembling this plot, then think again. This marks only the beginning of what turns out to be a terrifying jaunt through a labyrinth of camera tricks, lies, and deceit, but not for any reason that you can think of. What really lies in the center of this mystery is guaranteed not only to surprise you, but to certifiably chill you to the core.


The truth can be a bit murky….

This review must be kept vague in order to avoid spoilers, but I will say this: rather than exploit the concept of death and grief as many horror films tend to do, this is a film that uses the powers of its found footage format for good and explores such topics in as authentic a light as possible. That being said, the story is such that it makes a good amount of wiggle room for the mere contemplation of the possibility of ghostly apparitions. And it leaves it all at that—a mere contemplation left up for audiences to ruminate over. This utterly ambiguous movie doesn’t feign to answer for what may lie beyond the grave, but it certainly leaves one wondering. Considering its nature as a scripted mockumentary, “Lake Mungo”’s narrative is impeccably clean and easy to follow as it sucks audiences into its black void and keeps them there throughout its entirety. Showing just enough without giving everything away, this is the perfect example of the found footage format at its finest, suggesting that the key ingredient to executing a good story is perhaps a carefully plotted twist or two over a huge budget.


Go ahead, put me into the “wimp” category…

Once more, for the express purposes of avoiding spoilers, I find myself forced to compose a dubious review. And so, I will offer up this personal guarantee: For years I have watched horror movies as a hobby, and during this time I have deemed only two films too frightening to re-watch. This is one of them. Even the trailer makes me nervous at the prospect of turning off my bedroom light. “Lake Mungo” isn’t violent or even extremely shocking. It’s an insidious type of creepy that quietly crawls under your skin and stays there—the kind of horror that quietly alters the way you look out at the world. This movie is admirable for its high level of realism, which really puts the finishing touches on its already abundant fear factor. If you scare easily, don’t even try to give this a watch. But for all you thrill seekers out there—you’re welcome.

My Rating: 8.5/10


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About Angela

Angela McInnes is an English major and up-and-coming horror film aficionado. To her, happiness is a bottle of rum and a creature-feature on a Saturday night.

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