Lake Mungo - Lake Mungo( Blu Ray) [Second Sight Films - 2021]
Lake Mungo is a convincing and often highly chilling blend of mockumentary and found footage. The early 2000’s Australian film follows the plight of a family after their sixteen-year-old daughter drowns, and seemingly her spirit returns. For a few years, the film has been out-of-print, with the DVD going for fairly high sums- so it’s great to see the classy and deluxe reissue of this modern chiller classic, with a good selection of new and archive extras.
Lake Mungo originally appeared in 2008- it was written and directed by Joel Anderson, and impressively this is the first and only feature film from him thus far. It is a very clever and largely believable mockumentary, which utilises elements of video and photo found footage- for both chilling/ eerier effect, with rewarding plot twists.
The film focuses on the Palmer family who live in small-town Australia- father Russell(David Pledge), mother June( Rosie Traynor), older teen son Mathew( Martin Sharpe), and sixteen-year-old Alice (Talia Zucker). The mockumentary starts with the family and authorities discussing Alice going missing at a nearby dam- within a few days, her body is found by divers, with Father Russell going to identify the body. Fairly soon the family notice a figure on photos taken around the dam after Alice drowns, and they decide to set up cameras in their house to see if they can pick up Alice’s spirit in the house.
The acting throughout is largely very believable, as is the documentary layout/ flow of the film. It’s made even more believable with the use of police footage, news reporting, and interviews with both friends/ family, and those investigating the whole thing. The ‘found footage’ elements are once again masterfully done- moving from subtle suggestion/ dread, onto general creepiness, though to real tangible fear/terror. The film runs at one hour and twenty-seven-minute mark, and mostly you are tightly held through-out in the films eerier spell, as we get more found footage elements, and reveals/twists in the plot- these are all largely done well though, one of the later reveals felt may be taking things a little too far, when it's added to everything that has gone before it. There are also some quirky Twin Peaks character traits in the film, which adds an interesting edge to the whole thing. All in all, Lake Mungo is a classic chiller- using both newer and older genre tropes in a masterful, and at points extremely chilling way.
Moving onto this new region free release of the film- and we get a good selection of new and old extras. First, off the new stuff- we get a commentary track from Australian film writers/ academics Alexandra Heller-Nicholas and Emma Westwood- and this is a rewarding chatty and informative track. They start by discussing the opening text about this being a true story and relating it both to The Blair Witch Project and Picnic At Hanging Rock. As they move on, they discuss the history and climate surrounding the two areas featured- Ararat, Victoria and Lake Mungo a dry lake located in New South Wales where the latter part of the film occurs. They move onto discuss haunted media, the history of mockumentaries, and categorizing the different types/ forms of documentary. They comment on notable actors in the film and talk about key scenes in the film, and the use of landscape shots in the film. They discuss the high level of mental asylums in Australia at one point, and the massacre of Aboriginal people- and how these both tie into the films concept meaning. They talk about when the film initially played in Ararat, and how many of the town’s residents believable it was real, and how the film was set up and filmed. All in all, a most informative and interesting track. Next, we get a series of five new shot on film interviews- first of these is with the films DOP John Brawley, this one runs for forty-six minutes, and finds him talking about the origins of the film, how they selected Ararat, moving onto of course talking about the type of shots used and the feel they wanted of the whole project. The other four interviews are with producer David Rapsey( 11 minutes), actors Carole Patullo and James Lawson(28 minutes), filmmakers Justin Benson & Aaron Moorhead( 25 minutes), and film-maker Rob Savage(17 minutes). We get two video essay- one with film writer Josh Nelson( 20 minutes) and filmmaker Joseph Wallace(8 minutes). On the archive side of things, we get a second commentary track with producer David Rapsey and DOP John Brawley, and 13 minutes on deleted scenes. The finished release comes with a perfectly bound book featuring six new essays about the film, an interview with actor James Lawson, and rare behind the scenes photos.
In finishing once again Second Sight Films have done a wonderful job with this deluxe reissue of Lake Mungo- making it a must-buy film even if you have seen it before or not. One for those who enjoy well made, believable, and at points highly chilling and creepy found footage/ mockumentary. Roger Batty