Adventures in Streaming: Lake Mungo

* reviews of things i found on (mostly) netflix *

* now with spoilers *

Lake Mungo at first seemed to be a regular entry into the found-footage genre, but it ended up not really being found-footage at all.

It’s presented as a mock-documentary about Alice Palmer’s drowning death, with interviews with her family – parents and brother. The interviews are interspersed with various videos taken from either Alice’s phone or from some video surveillance the family had done after Alice’s death.

Because it’s presented as a gentle sort of documentary, it amplifies the creepiness; possibly supernatural things start happening in what is presented as a pretty bland, realistic world, making it a lot more possible for the viewers to imagine being in those situations themselves. Because we don’t really get to meet Alice, and instead are left with memories of her through her family members, it feels a lot more like when we really lose a loved one, and all we have left are what we think we remember and whatever photos or other artifacts we’ve collected.

The strange things people do when they’re hurting is presented in a very kind and compassionate manner; no one seems crazy in their attempts to grieve.

There’s a cool aspect to the film where the first half goes in one direction (looking backward at Alice’s life) and the second half goes forward (how the family is dealing with things now); this is paralleled by a scene where the family has gone out to the lake where Alice died and, on the way back, their transmission malfunctions so that the only way to drive the vehicle is in reverse. The narrative becomes kind of like a rubber band that stretches to the full and then comes back: just like the car going forward, and then going backward to get home, the family are drowning in their grief and confusion over their daughter’s death, but what they discover as they learn more about her brings them – and us – full circle, back functionally to where we began, but with more awareness of why things played out the way they did.

There are significant narrative points embedded in the end-credits, so it’s necessary to watch to the very end, and the ambiguity of whether or not the events have actually been paranormal is resolved both in these final scenes and in some of the revisited dialogue at the end of the main film.

Overall, Lake Mungo delivers. It’s a slow build, but the story is compelling, the acting is good, and the questions are as interesting as the answers.

popcorn icon  9 out of 10