A serious mockumentary isn’t something that’s attempted very often. It’s a challenging style of film to nail, and a comedic one (in the vein of What We Do in the Shadows or Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping) is often easier. There’s also the fact that no serious mockumentary could be any better than Joel Anderson’s Lake Mungo. This tiny Australian flick never quite got the love it deserved back in 2008, but its brand-new Blu-ray release from Second Sight is everything it deserves and so much more.
The film itself is one of the scariest to ever come out from Down Under. It follows the Palmer family after the death of their daughter Alice as they try to come to terms with what happened to her in the days and weeks leading up to her death and whether or not she may be still alive.
To say much more would be unnecessary, as Lake Mungo is a film best experienced with as little foreknowledge as possible. Not much needs to be said about it that hasn’t been said already: it’s a harrowing watch, as realistic and heartbreaking as any true-life documentary of this sort, grounded by fantastic performances and talking-head stylistic approach, yet given an ethereal spin by its ghostly inclusions.
It’s the perfect film to get a glorious physical release. As detailed in an interview with producer David Rapsey, its international marketing was poor, and it rarely screened anywhere outside of a select few festivals. It never got a proper home video release, either: this new set is currently the only way to watch the film in the UK legally – and it’s more than worth your money.
Not only does the film itself look incredible, having been fully restored where appropriate (though all of the old phone footage remains superbly dark and grainy to add to the sense of mystery), but it’s packed with a mass of extras. It’s so complete that the only thing missing is any input from Joel Anderson, the film’s director. Lake Mungo was Anderson’s debut, but he hasn’t made a single film since and has been off the grid for years now – which, if we’re honest, only adds to the film’s unsettling cult status.
The extras included more than make up for this, though: there’s an archive commentary from David Rapsey and director of photography John Brawley, and the rest are entirely new. A second commentary featuring film critic Alexandra Heller-Nicholas and author Emma Westwood is a great listen. Although, the standout is a new interview with John Brawley, whose insights into the film are incredible. It’s a long feature, clocking in at a hefty 45 minutes, but it’s endlessly fascinating and more than justifies the runtime.
Elsewhere, there is an interview with actors Carole Patullo and James Lawson (it’s nice to hear some insights from people who were in front of the camera), Rob Savage (director of Host) on the film’s legacy, filmmakers Aaron Moorhead and Justin Benson (directors of such cult fare as Resolution, The Endless, and the more recent Synchronic) on how the film has inspired their works. There are also two separate video essays: one by Josh Nelson on the relationship between technology and the supernatural and one by Joseph Wallace on the purpose of the family home.
Also included in the release are three art cards with brand new illustrations and an 80-page book with new essays by Sarah Appleton, Simon Fitzjohn, Rich Johnson, Mary Beth McAndrews, and Shellie McMurdo with James Lawson by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas, and a bunch of behind-the-scenes stills.
It’s thrilling to see a film such as this given a proper home video release. Though Lake Mungo certainly has its fans and has more than earned its cult status, this gorgeous release is sure to bring the film to a whole new generation of moviegoers. The new set is a must-own for physical media fans, but for anyone else who fancies a trip to Lake Mungo, do so. You won’t regret it.
It’s a dark and mysterious film, endlessly fascinating and meticulously unsettling – it might not be as out-and-out scary as other genre fare, but have patience. Lake Mungo is a film that’ll creep up on you in the night and then vanish, leaving you breathless and tear-stricken like few movies can. Joel Anderson might not have made another movie since, but this is something very, very special – so let’s cherish it.
Release Date: June 7th.