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Blu-Ray : Must Own
Ranking:
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Release Date: April 4th, 2022 Movie Release Year: 2008

Lake Mungo [UK Import]

Overview -

Blu-ray Review By: Billy Russell
Movies like Lake Mungo are like the modern equivalent of campfire tales. They spread like whispers among fans, from one excited viewer to the other, “Have you heard of this movie? You must see it!” The film itself is a twisted, macabre yarn, with a slam-bang ending, and the equally dynamite, region-free presentation courtesy of Second Sight makes this Blu-ray an absolute Must Own for horror fans with an excellent A/V presentation and extra features. 

 

OVERALL:
Must Own
Rating Breakdown
STORY
VIDEO
AUDIO
SPECIAL FEATURES
Tech Specs & Release Details
Technical Specs:
Region-Free Blu-ray Disc
Video Resolution/Codec:
1080p AVC/MPEG-4
Length:
87
Aspect Ratio(s):
1.78:1
Audio Formats:
English: DTS-HD MA 5.1
Subtitles/Captions:
English SDH
Release Date:
April 4th, 2022

Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take

Ranking:

As a horror fan, I have to admit that despite myself I’m a bit jaded. I don’t want to be, but it just happens. You can only see so many zombies get disemboweled before the fear you once had, watching something like Night of the Living Dead for the first time just isn’t what it used to be. So, along came Lake Mungo, a movie that put a genuine fear into me I haven’t had in years. Decades, maybe. I felt like a kid again. I was giddy from the fear that it gave me. It affected me on such a deep level. It turns out that for me to get scared these days, what I need is a soft, quiet film that explores death and how people cope with loss.

Lake Mungo is an Australian mockumentary-style horror film, opting out of the traditional “found footage” and instead looking like a polished documentary made for the BBC. Because this is a documentary, the film has a lot more freedom and you won’t need to suspend your disbelief when no one seems to put down the camera under any circumstances. It is about a family who lost their daughter, Alice, who tragically drowned when they were out together for a fun weekend. In coming to terms with her death, they believe that they have seen her ghost in the house and that she has secrets that need to be revealed before she can move on.

And secrets, she has.  She has a whole secret life, not unlike Twin Peaks’ Laura Palmer, including a sexual affair with the neighbor and his wife, despite being underage. In this film, though, nothing is ever what it quite seems to be. A movie like Lake Mungo is awe-inspiring in the way its serpentine plot unfolds, particularly in how it builds to a shocking climax. 

There’s a line in the film, spoken by Alice’s mother, that any victim of grief can relate to. She says, “Death takes everything, eventually. It’s the meanest, dumbest machine there is. It keeps coming and it doesn’t care.” In most horror films, some sort of monster, or some sort of villain, is the main threat, while it wields death as its weapon. With Lake Mungo, death itself is the villain, and the movie is smart enough to realize just how scary death is. The film is, at its heart, about people who have made their peace with death, who understand that The End is just a thing we all have to go through and none of us are alone in it.

My favorite horror movies usually end with a tinge of unease to create a sense of lingering dread, and Lake Mungo achieves this with one final shot and it’s a gut-punch. It stayed with me since I saw it over a decade ago. Some of the most effective moments in the movie remind me of the nights I used to spend on YouTube looking up cheesy “real ghost” videos. The film is nearly devoid of jump scares, instead utilizing a series of images that create a feeling of ill at ease. 

Not only is this film scary as hell, it’s also terribly sad. It isn’t merely a film about grief and loss, it’s a film that understands what it means to be in mourning. The writer-director, Joel Anderson, has not dirtected another movie since, and it’s a damn shame. This is a terrific debut and I hope he makes something else one day. He's an executive producer on Late Night with the Devil so at least he hasn't disappeared from horror.

Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
Second Sight presents Lake Mungo in its definitive home video version. Sadly, the Limited Edition disc is out of print, but if you’re a fan of the film, it’s worth seeking out through a reseller to get your hands on. For those who don't need extra fancy cases and materials, the standard edition will do the trick. Housed in a black case, the film is pressed on a Region Free disc so there's no worry if you have to import it. 

Video Review

Ranking:

To accurately achieve the look and feel of a real-deal documentary, Lake Mungo was shot on a number of formats, including film (both 16mm and 35mm) and digital (2K HD digital intermediate, miniDV, and heavily pixelated cell phone video). Talking head segments and other footage recorded specifically for the “documentary” look appropriately crisp and professional. The images are sharp, and colorful, and contain a healthy amount of film grain around the edges and in deep blacks of the frame. Footage that was supposed to have been collected by the filmmakers from the family, or from TV news segments, looks intentionally, and authentically, low-res. Pixelated noise dominates the image, particularly when the film blows up a portion of it for an eerie effect, to show the viewer the reflection of something ethereal.  Every inch of Lake Mungo’s picture is lovingly crafted, both by the original film crew and the team at Second Sight restoring it for its 1080p Blu-ray presentation. The film is a unique oddity that makes art out of its obfuscated images. We see what we want to see. The bubbling grain and pixels help achieve a sense of terror, giving us the briefest of glimpses into the unknown.

Audio Review

Ranking:

Lake Mungo’s Blu-ray release, like the previous DVD distributed as part of the “8 Films to Die For” from After Dark Horrorfest, is in 5.1 surround.  Second Sight gives the soundtrack an upgrade here, from Dolby Digital to DTS HD MA. While Lake Mungo is a front-heavy affair, with the vast majority of the film being spoken by actors who are portraying interview subjects, there is an omnipresent atmospheric score that plays through the fronts and the surrounds, creating an uneasy, dreadful ambiance throughout. During the film’s terrifying climax, there is a deft use of surround sound through the use of LFE effects through the subwoofer and rain and thunder through the rears. Lake Mungo’s sound mix is subtle and expertly used for maximum effect. While it may not sound like a faux documentary has much use for a 5.1 mix, the filmmakers use it, and every other tool at their disposal, for maximum effect in manipulating their audience.

Special Features

Ranking:

Second Sight has brought together a number of special features that provide an insight into the process that created Lake Mungo, and how so much of it was achieved with such a small budget. The decision to shoot Lake Mungo as a documentary was necessary due to budgetary constraints, but instead of merely being satisfied with the format decision, the filmmakers dove into it with ferocity, creating a unique look and feel for their picture that serves the story. The filmmakers themselves, along with admirers of the film, break down the work that went into crafting this modern masterpiece. 

  • Audio Commentary featuring Producer David Rapsey and Director of Photographer John Brawley 
  • New Audio Commentary featuring Alexandra Heller-Nicholas and Emma Westwood
  • Captured Spirits: Interview with DP John Brawley (HD 46m)
  • Ghost in the Machine: Interview with Producer David Rapsey (HD 11m)
  • A Cop and a Friend: Interview with Actors Carole Patullo & James Lawson (HD 28m)
  • Kindred Spirits: Filmmakers Justin Benson & Aaron Moorhead on Lake Mungo (HD 25m)
  • Hosting Spirits: Filmmaker Rob Savage on Lake Mungo (HD 17m)
  • Simulacra and Spirits: Video Essay by film academic Josh Nelson (HD 20m)
  • Autopsy of a Family Home: Video Essay by filmmaker Joseph Wallace (HD 8m)
  • Deleted Scenes (HD 13m)

Films like Lake Mungo are a delight. They touch upon every emotion we have as humans, as they explore this experience we have as a species–fears of the unknown, fears of what we do know, coping with loss, the neverending sadness of losing a loved one. The skill that goes into creating these stories, and the phenomenal oomph they pack behind their messages, make viewers ecstatic and reenergized. Simply put, movies like Lake Mungo are why we go to the movies, and special editions like this, as assembled by Second Sight, are why people buy them and cherish them. This is an absolute Must Own. 

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