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Film / Lake Mungo

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Lake Mungo is a 2008 Australian horror film. Sixteen-year-old Alice Palmer drowns while swimming in the local dam. When her body is recovered and a verdict of accidental death returned, her grieving family buries her. The family then experiences a series of strange and inexplicable events centered around their home. Profoundly unsettled, the Palmers seek the help of psychic and parapsychologist, Ray Kemeny. Kemeny discovers that Alice led a double life. A series of clues lead the family to Lake Mungo where Alice's secret past emerges.

The film was part of the After Dark Horrorfest film festival. An American Foreign Remake was to be expected out sometime in 2011, from the folks behind The Ring but it appears to be in Development Hell.

This film provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Adult Fear: The opening of the film is this in spades: a child drowns on a family trip and is missing for weeks until their body resurfaces — right before Christmas. And then her parents, overcome with grief and denial, convince themselves that the body wasn't Alice's to hold onto the small chance that she's secretly alive, only to exhume her body and confirm that it is indeed their daughter.
  • Bad Dreams: Alice's mother has such vivid nightmares about Alice's ghost that she takes to long walks at night just so she won't have to sleep.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The Palmers understand Alice better and have the closure to move on from her death, but it's implied that they're no longer aware of Alice, who continues to linger on alone.
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  • Failed a Spot Check: The credits reveal that Alice was in Mathew's faked backyard photograph all along, but she was very easy to spot the first time the photo was shown onscreen, if your eyes scanned the the screen at all. This makes it seem as though her family didn't spot-check in the least, though the film leaves it ambiguous as to whether or not her family can notice her.
  • Ghostly Goals: Alice wants her family to find out about her secrets and ultimately understand her.
  • Happier Home Movie: Whenever the Palmers reminisce about Alice, it's usually intercut with this, much like a real-life documentary.
  • Jitter Cam: All of the cell phone footage is extremely erratic, making it hard to make out details.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Zig-zagged in-universe. Alice appears as a ghost to her father, but it's unclear if she's really there or if he's hallucinating from his suppressed grief. Then she starts appearing in photographs, but it's revealed that Mathew was faking them to help give his mother closure. Then she starts appearing in footage for real and it's revealed in the credits that she's actually be on film all along, but nobody has noticed. Not to mention that she saw recorded the image of her own ghost approaching her.
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  • Mind Screw: A lot of things in this film will leave you with a lot to think about. What caused those bruises on Matthew? Was it self-harm? What really gave Alice those dreams? Was is just hallucinations? Was it because she may have been pregnant ("the sick feeling")? What created the figure at Lake Mungo? It couldn't have just been hallucinations since she actually filmed it. So was the lake cursed? Did it slowly Mind Rape her and kill her, or was the whole thing as mundane as "a guilt-wracked and very misunderstood girl slowly loses her sanity and falls victim to an accident (or commits suicide"?
  • Mockumentary
  • Mood Whiplash: After The Reveal of the sex tape and discussion of it with Alice's family, the interview segment with Alice's friends takes place at a public pool, with her friends in bikinis.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: The film predominantly relies on ambiance and haunting still images to convey horror rather than jump scares and gore.
  • Our Ghosts Are Different: Alice's ghost is pretty standard with the exception that she saw her own ghost before she died.
  • Parental Issues: Alice's family and friends never actually truly understood her.
  • Posthumous Character: The documentary takes place long after Alice's death, but who she really is isn't made apparent until certain revelations come to light.
  • Psychological Horror
  • Re-Cut: The American release of the film is based on a rough cut of the film while the Australian release was a shorter and tighter cut prepared by the director. The shorter version is generally considered the better one.
  • Rule of Symbolism: Both Alice and June (Alice's mother) had an interview with Ray, and during their hypnotic trances, they were both asked to go into their house and walk around. Alice described that she went to her room and sat on her chair, while June also described herself walking into Alice's room, and Alice continued to describe seeing her mother walking in. This implies that although their trances took place at different times, they were parallel. However, In Alice's trance, she describes that June came into the room, looked around, but left, oblivious to her presence. In June's trance, she described herself coming into the room, seeing it empty, and leaves. Showing us that the daughter waited for the mother, she wanted her to understand her more, but the mother never saw it, she was oblivious to the daughter's true feelings.
  • Scare Chord: One, when Alice's camera footage freezes on her doppleganger face for a while, then suddenly reanimates at high speed with a shocking loud sound.
  • Scenery Porn
  • Stepford Smiler: Alice, who "kept secrets, and she kept the fact that she kept secrets, a secret."
  • Whole Plot Reference: To Twin Peaks, which was also about a beautiful, young woman who turns up dead, with the investigation afterwards turning up bizarre paranormal events and evidence of a huge, secret double life on the part of the young woman. The fact that both girls have the same last name (Palmer) seals this.
  • Your Days Are Numbered: Alice saw her own corpse (and filmed it on her cell phone) while on a class trip to Lake Mungo.

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