In December 2005, 16 year old Alice Palmer (Talia Zucker) drowns in a dam near the small Victorian town of Ararat. She is enjoying a family picnic with her parents June and Russell Palmer (Rosie Traynor and David Pledger) and brother (Martin Sharpe). A month later, when strange noises and apparitions begin, the family becomes convinced there are supernatural forces at work. They use cameras and videos to try and record the apparitions, and even hire a psychic (Steve Jodrell) - but they're all looking in the wrong place for the wrong things.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
If you were not told otherwise, you would easily believe Lake Mungo to be a genuine documentary about a series of events that have haunted a family in the aftermath of the tragic death of their teenage daughter. This superbly constructed and executed film gets everything right, to the smallest detail, as it draws us into the imagined scenario. The cast - not well known actors, which helps - deliver entirely authentic performances as ordinary folk speaking to a documentary filmmaker about their experiences.
Written in naturalistic sequences of interviews and real time footage, the film constructs an increasingly complex and intriguing scenario. It's captivating with its total commitment to the form, and retains all internal logic to convince us of its veracity.
Impressively aided by David Paterson's clever, haunting and spare score, plus Craig Carter's exceptional sound design, writer/director Joel Anderson creates a highly charged mood throughout, and John Brawley's cinematography blends seamlessly with some of the most effective visual effects I've seen in a supernatural thriller. It's a terrific, eerie and memorable debut for Anderson.
Review by Louise Keller:
Genuinely compelling, this mock documentary from first time feature director Joel Anderson builds on its wonderfully eerie mood to deliver an enigmatic ghost story, family drama and story about a teenage girl with secrets. 'I feel like something bad is going to happen to me; I feel like something bad has happened,' a dislocated female voice tells us as the film begins. With its superb ethereal soundscape by Craig Carter, Anderson has created an excellent genre film and cleverly uses its low budget to advantage with seamless integration of fuzzy video and mobile phone footage.
Alice (Talia Zucker) has the same surname as David Lynch's Laura Palmer from Twin Peaks, and in similar fashion, her drowning death begins the unravelling of secrets. Lake Mungo is where a later revelation occurs, not the location of Alice's death, where she is picnicking with her family near their home in the Victorian country town of Ararat. Beginning with her death, Anderson tracks Alice's story with documentary style interviews of family, friends and colleagues. Rosie Traynor and David Pledger are convincing as Alice's parents, who candidly relive the events, the identification procedure and how their son Matthew (Martin Sharpe) begins to video the house in time lapse photography after strange noises and occurrences begin.
There's an unexplained photo, bruises, a hidden diary and video, a lost mobile phone, a seance and a Hungarian born psychic (Steve Jodrell), who inadvertently becomes involved. Anderson's script reveals only as much as we need to know little by little, and we become more and more involved. John Brawley's cinematography enhances the mood as the effect on the family is gauged over the coming months as the secrets of this happy fun-loving girl with a heavy burden is revealed. It is what we imagine that provides the greatest suspense in this tense story that plays like a magnet to us - a captive audience.
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JOEL ANDERSON INTERVIEW
LAKE MUNGO (M)
CAST: Talia Zucker, Rosie Traynor, David Pledger, Martin Sharpe, Steve Jodrell, Tamara Donnellan, Scott Terrill
PRODUCER: Georgie Nevile, David Rapsey
DIRECTOR: Joel Anderson
SCRIPT: Joel Anderson
CINEMATOGRAPHER: John Brawley
EDITOR: Bill Murphy
MUSIC: David Paterson
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Penny Southgate
OTHER: Craig Carter (sound design)
RUNNING TIME: 85 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Mungo Productions
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: Brisbane, Adelaide, Melbourne, Regionals: July 30, 2009; Perth: August 6, 2009; Sydney, ACT, Tas: August 20, 2009 (Cinemas - JULY 30: Palace George, 135 Fitzroy St, St Kilda; Ballarat Regent, Lydiard St, Ballarat; Palace Eastend Nova, 274 Rundle St, Adelaide; Palace Barracks, 61 Petrie Terrace, Brisbane; AUGUST 6: Palace Cinema Paradiso, 164 James St, Northbridge, WA)