Lake Mungo (2008) | 31 Nights of Horror Challenge

For this year’s 31 Nights of Horror Challenge day four prompt, it was an Australian film. We chose Lake Mungo (2008).

Sixteen-year-old Alice Palmer drowns while swimming in the local dam. Her grieving family buries her when her body is recovered, and a verdict of accidental death is returned. The family then experiences a series of strange and inexplicable events centered in and around their home. Profoundly unsettled, the Palmers seek the help of psychic and parapsychologist Ray Kemeny. Ray discovers that Alice led a secret, double life. A series of clues lead the family to Lake Mungo, where Alice’s secret past emerges. Lake Mungo is a mystery, a thriller, and a ghost story.

While I am not a massive fan of the found footage/paranormal genre of horror films, I wanted to stay steady with the prompts and expand our horizons a bit and watch some films we have never seen before.

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Our Thoughts on Lake Mungo

Lake Mungo is an excellent documentary-style ghost story from Australia. It was pretty different from what I expected. This isn’t Paranormal Activity, despite the vaguely similar premise. It’s primarily about the story of a family who has lost a loved one and can’t let her go. This is much closer to a paranormal thriller/supernatural drama than a horror movie.

Recalled mainly through interviews, cameras, and cell phone footage, Lake Mungo is about an Australian family named the Palmers. Teenage daughter Alice is lost in a drowning accident while on a family outing in 2005. After her death, they still sense her presence in their home, and shadowy images of her begin to show up in photos. Revealing any more of the story than that would be a disservice.

Kudos to the excellent acting from the relatively (at least, for this American) unknown cast. This is one of the more “real” feeling-fiction documentaries I’ve seen. This is a lot of the reason Lake Mungo was so immersive to me. All the characters seemed like entirely genuine people. This almost could have been a documentary I stumbled upon while flipping through the channels.

This is probably one of the creepiest movies I’ve seen since The Others. Very unsettling. Not a lot of big chills and shocks, but it slowly builds an unsettling sense of atmosphere and dread of the unnatural and unknown, along with an unexpected but welcome mystery element. The plot goes a lot of places that might not be expected. At its heart, Lake Mungo is also a pretty sad movie. It was easy for me to believe these people had lost a beloved daughter, sister, and friend long before her time.

If you’re looking for a pure, jump-out-of-your-seat popcorn horror flick, this isn’t it. I happen to think it’s something more interesting than that, though. A movie sets out to do something different and does it very well. I loved it. I haven’t been this pleasantly surprised by a movie since Triangle.

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