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Lake Mungo (2008)

  Tags: After Dark Films, after-life, David Pledger, ghost, grief, haunting, Joel Anderson, lake mungo, Martin Sharpe, mockumentary, Rosie Traynor, Scott Terrill, spectre, Steve Jodrell, Talia Zucker, Tamara Donnellan

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Joel Anderson
89 mins
Talia Zucker, Rosie Traynor, David Pledger, Martin Sharpe, Steve Jodrell, Tamara Donnellan, Scott Terrill

I went blind into "Lake Mungo" with no previous research whatsoever. What I left with was a provocative and thought provoking insight on death and grief through the eyes of debut writer and director Joel Anderson.

The "highlight" of the After Dark line-up of 2009 is in fact this Australian born delight from rookie Anderson. "Lake Mungo" is absolutely exceptional from opening reel to the last poignant moment. Few films can capture the audience in this way, completely delving into the human psyche with riveting screen imagery that is just flawless in its approach and delivery. I found myself on an emotional escapade, in mid-afternoon both chilled, detached and addicted to the story wrapped around this family and its terrible grip on life's uncertainties both now and after. Few will find any film put together with this type of artistic mastery, Anderson completely understanding the project and its goal of enveloping the viewer in a unique atmosphere that plays as well as "Paranormal Activity" with the documentary style story-telling of HBO's gritty "Paradise Lost".

The film focuses on the Palmer family, a group of four that have recently lost their daughter Alice on a picnic getaway. "Allison" drowns and the family is absolutely devastated with her loss as well as the deep grief that settles like a plague on each member of the household. As the film unfolds we are introduced to a "haunting", as Allison returns to visit the family and unleashes an emotional and rather disturbing invasion through apparitions and tense feelings. The film centers on the idea of life after death, however deep behind the film's veil lies an uneasy pretense that is rooted in grief, sadness and the coping of death.

"Lake Mungo" is extremely unique in the way that the film is pieced together as a documentary. We see a professional "news piece" on screen, from one on one interviews with family members and friends to in depth discussions with police and even news footage from the drowning. The movie becomes abrasive and chilling with its use of home footage, from photos evidencing the ghost of Allison to motion footage shot "Ghost Hunter" style. This "footage" leaves something to the imagination while showcasing lights and darks amidst shadows on camera. This works similar to the recent "Paranormal Activity" in gripping the viewer, keeping them huddled with eyes on screen just simply waiting for...anything out of the norm. The movie tells a better story as the family and psychic begin unraveling the clues around the daughter's death that eventually leads to some closure both for the family as well as the viewer who becomes so attached to the on screen happenings.

Joel Anderson is simply masterful here and creates a unique ghost story that will leave you chilled to bone. While certainly a scary and disturbing film, it also plays to the strengths of the family. The loving bond between members of the household both now as well as the after-life is the true webbing. With no regard to both personal beliefs or preconceived notions this film will delight the most casual viewer.

Posted on April 11, 2010 - 6:02pm | EC