2010 After Dark Horrorfest: Lake Mungo (2008)
Ok; let’s clear up a few things: Lake Mungo, which was made in 2008, is part of the After Dark Horrorfest 2010; Lake Mungo is shot in a faux-documentary style (that was actually effective) but is not based on a true story; there’s already an American remake of Lake Mungo (written by David Leslie Johnson, the force behind 2009’s horrible Orphan) scheduled to hit theaters (yeah, we’ll see about that) in 2011; and most importantly Lake Mungo is not a horror movie. Argue all you want people but there’s no way this film should be called a “horror movie”. Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure is more of a horror movie!! All in all Lake Mungo has one or two decent moments but these moments don’t add up too much.
The story is about a teen girl, Alice Palmer (played by Talia Zucker), who drowns while swimming in the local dam. The movie begins with the event already having happened and Alice’s friend and family are being interviewed in a faux-documentary style. The documentary style is pretty effective but I also found that it made it difficult to really get into the movie. When I watch a documentary I’m always very aware I’m watching one and therefore never get completely absorbed into the story. That format was so well done here that I never truly got into the story. In fact at a few parts I was expecting Jack Palance to walk onto the screen and grumble in his sandpaper voice, “Believe it, or not.”
After Alice’s body is found and buried, strange things start happening around the Palmer household. No, there are no dishes or silverware flying around; no, there are no attacks on the surviving family members; no, there aren’t any walls of blood flowing down the hallways. The “strange things” here are visions of Alice’s ghost calmly walking around the house and pleasantly posing in other photos. OH THE HORROR. If Disney is looking for a ghost story to get kids into the genre, well this is it!! The brother who’s a wanna-be film maker (and who has some pretty expensive looking equipment) sets up cameras all over the house to capture videos of dead sis walking around. But are the images captured legit? I guess you’re gonna have to see this one and find out for yourself.
Ok ok; I’ll tell ya about all the “ghostly images” of dead Alice: They’re a hoax. WTF?!!?? I’m only telling you this to 1) save you the time of not watching this movie and 2) ask what the fucking point was of showing Alice’s ghost and then revealing 20 minutes later it was a hoax? It felt like a huge time waster and an even bigger “fuck you” from the film maker. And it’s a shame because there were a few genuine “hair standing up on your arms” moments from some of the ghostly images. But we do find out that Alice had a secret life she kept hidden from both her closest friends and family. I’m not gonna spoil it (really I won’t) because it’s actually pretty uninteresting (it’s not so much a “secret life” as it is a “horny moment”). I’m sorry but it’s just not interesting.
The movie only starts getting interesting near the end when some archaic clues about her secret life lead the family to something that happened to Alice at Lake Mungo a few months prior to her drowning. Again, I won’t reveal what that significant event was, but unfortunately by the time the “big twist” comes you just won’t care. Director Joel Anderson moves things along at such a slow pace (I mean this one is SLOW people) and throws so many red herrings at you that you just give up caring about what’s going on. It’s a shame, really, because the “big reveal” at the lake and what happens afterwards could have been effective if the buildup was better executed. But again; too little too late.
Do you also notice what’s missing in this review? There really isn’t any kind of conflict or “horror” going on here. I’m not sure why the After Dark Horrorfest chose this two year old movie for their 2010 HORRORfest. Granted, After Dark isn’t known for choosing great flicks, but at least they’ve all been horror movies.
Bottom line here is that this is a poorly executed film. The acting is decent and there’s a good story that’s buried underneath a slow and plodding plot, but Anderson just doesn’t pull off what he set out to do (which was apparently making a horror flick). If the remake gets rid of all the filler, picks up the pace, makes it a narrative story, and focuses in on the story of what happened to Alice at the lake, I think the remake will have a chance. The first line in the movie, uttered by Alice, is, “I feel like something bad is going to happen tonight.” Yeah I got the same feeling sweetheart. If you’re looking for a psychological drama that (kinda) has a ghost in it, well you might enjoy this. But if you’re looking for a horror movie, definitely skip this one.
Director: Joel Anderson
Plot: 2 out of 5 stars
Gore: 0 out of 10 skulls
Zombie Mayhem: 0 out of 5 brains
Reviewed by Scott Shoyer