Hey, I actually made it to the After Dark Horrorfest: 8 Films to Die For, as it is ridiculously called! But because Google thinks that there's a movie theater in the middle of a trailer park in backwoods West Virginia, I missed DREAD and barely arrived in time for LAKE MUNGO. Thanks, Google! Next time, I shall ask China for directions to the cinema!
I'm stalling because I'm not sure how to write about this film. Bundling this Aussie import as part of a "horror fest" probably won't do it any favors. LAKE MUNGO has ghost content, but it's clearly not a horror film and sits more comfortably in a genre like "family drama", albeit with a family ghost. The film is shot pseudo-documentary style, a la BLAIR WITCH and PARANORMAL ACTIVITY. It's well acted and maintains atmosphere throughout.
A guy who sat behind me (one of the four men who came to Horrorfest alone, because our supermodel girlfriends were all busy) made the most unsettling sounds ever in a theater. I think he was shoveling handfuls of popcorn into his mouth, choking them down, then GASPING for air to allow him to eat more. It was like his popcorn activity was angering a strangling ghost. I stopped noticing once the film began, but seriously considered fleeing. If you are reading this, popcorn dude, no offense. I have my bad habits, too.
LAKE MUNGO isn't a horror film nor is it an especially successful film. It starts off as a creaky ghost tale, then diverts into "gotcha!" scenes, then becomes a meditation on loss, but it's all very loosely-constructed. And very slow. If I, the person who loves deliberately-paced ghost tales like popcorn guy loves popcorn, started getting antsy, I don't see much hope for the general moviegoer. If the film had maintained a consistent feel, I don't know that it would have been an issue. But one character's pronouncement that "Nothing happened!" burned with ironic truth. LAKE MUNGO tells you that you're going to the ghosthouse, takes forty minutes to drive you out there, then tells you that you're really going to grandma's and never apologizes. There's a good movie buried amongst all the time-wasting, but it's smothered before it can really flower.
I cannot believe I am about to type this, but let's hope that the American remake improves on the original's flaws. For once.