Film Review: Lake Mungo – Deeply Unsettling

I thought I’d seen or at least heard of every ghost/haunted house film made over the last decade. Somehow Lake Mungo slipped through the net. This Australian mockumentary style drama kept me looking over my shoulder, peering into corners of the room and afraid to glance at mirrors throughout the film, and long after.

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220px-Lake_Mungo_Official_PosterSixteen year old Alice goes missing during a family picnic while she is swimming in a local dam. Her body is found soon after, an accidental drowning as everyone feared. Her family are unable to rest easy at the house in the weeks and months following her death. Her mother in particular finds her sanity disturbed by terrifying nightmares of her daughter standing at the foot of her bed, dripping wet and staring at her in a silent plea for help.

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Now remember, we do not see any of this. The story is narrated in a documentary style with actors portraying an average family. Their performances were so capable, I almost forgot what I was watching wasn’t real. We hear Alice’s mother’s heartbreaking story but we are left to imagine it, for the most part, for ourselves.

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The horror elements creep in through photographs and video imagery. A camera in the house seems to capture a shadowy figure moving from one room to the next, and in mirrors it looks like we are seeing glimpses of Alice. Out at the dam where she drowned, people report seeing a girl matching her description wandering about.

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As the film goes on, the sense that Alice was harbouring dark secrets in the run up to her death grows. Talking to her friends, the family learn that something happened on a school camping trip to Lake Mungo that spooked her. Mobile phone footage pieced together from her friends’ phones shows Alice leaving the group. Why did she walk off by herself? Why did she come back upset and missing her phone and jewellery? The family go on a trip to find out, and we stay with them step by step.

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Okay, one nagging question I had while watching this film was why would a family be making a documentary or participating in something like this? If you find yourself thinking the same, I suggest just look past it and allow yourself to become involved with Alice and her family’s story.

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I had goosebumps, shivers crawling down my spine, the hair on my neck standing up at times watching Lake Mungo. I can’t remember the last time a ghost story chilled me like this one did. There’s not that many in-your-face scary moments that make you jump, but there’s an underlying sense of unease throughout. This film is not just a ghost story, it’s a focus on one family’s grief. When you think of good haunted house stories, for me at least, The Conjuring comes to mind. And while that was excellent, it’s an altogether different breed to this. Lake Mungo is genuinely scary and I was unsettled for a long time after watching it.

*

If you decide to watch this, give it a chance. It may start out slow, but stick with it and the twists and turns will reward your patience. ****

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Has anyone heard of this? What’s your favourite haunted house movie or book?
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Book Spotlight: Witch Bay by P.L. Crompton

Atmospheric mystery set among the ruggedly beautiful scenery of Wales.

witch bay

Okay, I’m a little biased when it comes to this book because I helped out with the proofreading, but for anyone who’d like to spend some time in Wales and enjoy the musical accent while sipping a hot cup of tea, Witch Bay is for you. I felt I was there in the village myself walking along the cliffs with Beth or strolling around with Gywn. The gentle pace and relatable characters made it a breeze to read. The Witch herself was suitably sinister – a beautiful but dangerous part of nature. The image of the yawning cave gave me chills.

**

Blurb for Witch Bay

In a coastal village in Wales, someone is committing the perfect crime: people are disappearing without a trace. An elderly woman is the most recent disappearance. A day later, police find her body washed up on the beach. Senior officers record it as death by misadventure, but Village Constable Gwyn Thomas is certain her death and the other disappearances are connected.

Police suspicion is inevitable, but as with many crimes, an unintended consequence follows. This time the consequence has a name—Bethan, the dead woman’s niece. When she arrives from London to claim her inheritance, she refuses to accept her aunt’s death was accidental. Bethan begins hunting down and questioning village residents who might have information. As the puzzle pieces begin to fall into place, suddenly the tables are turned. She discovers she is no longer the hunter—she is the prey.

**

About Pam

pamFor several years, I wrote non-fiction articles published in Canadian and American magazines but my heart was really in storytelling.

Hi, I’m Pam Crompton. I grew up on the outskirts of a small village in Welsh farming country. When I was a little girl there was no television, and radio was limited to the news and music. For entertainment, people used to gather around the fire and tell stories or talk about something that happened just as they had from time immemorial. If I stayed very quiet, my mother would forget I wasn’t in bed and I could listen to the adults talk. Many of those stories stayed in my mind and eventually I included some of them in my collection Land of My Fathers.

Not all of the talk involved people we knew, a lot of it was folklore and history. I doubt there are many Welsh people who are not curious about and proud of their Celtic ancestry and who are not intrigued by Merlin. At school, history was my best subject; I found it fascinating.

When I left school, we moved to Carmarthen, a Welsh town named after Merlin, and history surrounded me, which I continued to study. I used some of this knowledge for my novel The Last Druid.

Although my most recent novel The Agency is set in Calgary, upcoming novels are set in Wales or England because those countries offer themselves as better settings to the stories I write than the wide open spaces of Canada.

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If Witch Bay grabs your fancy, you can find it on Smashwords or Amazon or visit Pam at her website here.

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Lost: A Trip Down Memory Lane

Ten years later, season 1 of Lost is as good as if not better than I remembered.

Given it’s summer, I’m running short on quality TV shows to watch at the moment. Friends and family praise Falling Skies, but despite it featuring two awesome things: aliens and Noah Wyle, I couldn’t get into it. The final season of True Blood is back, but it’s not very good. I was left with a void. I can’t not be hooked on a TV show. Not having a programme to be addicted to makes me antsy. I don’t know why, but Lost popped into my mind. Unlike other shows I’ve enjoyed through the years like Roswell, Buffy, Dark Angel, ER, Friends and The X- Files, I only watched Lost once, week after week as each episode aired in Ireland, all the way back in 2004 when I was doing my Arts degree.

lost

I wondered what I’d think of the first season a decade on, so I sat and watched all season one in a couple of weeks. Wow. I remember enjoying Lost (until it started to suck in the latter seasons), but the second time around it hit me what a unique, mysterious and entertaining show season 1 was filled with in-depth characters. I also realised I’ve grown up somewhat. Ten years ago, I fancied Sawyer like mad and didn’t think much of Jack. Give me the bad boy over the good (and who I considered to be bland) doctor any day on the island, is what my younger self though. Now it’s Jack I’m rooting for.

sawyer

Photo from IMDB

jack

Photo from IMDB

I enjoyed the flashbacks. Each episode focused on one character’s background, carefully revealing snippets of Kate’s, Hurley’s, Sayid’s, Claire’s, Charlie’s, Sun’s past etc. Hurley’s numbers were intriguing, why did the Others kidnap Claire, why were there Polar Bears on the island… All that combined with the interesting dilemma of how to survive on an island cut off from the outside world kept me glued to the screen.

I know things went downhill later. I think the beginning of the end of my love for Lost started with the flash forwards. And then came the flash sideways! Even writing those words makes my blood start to boil. Why the writers felt the need to use them is beyond me. Even one of the creators, JJ Abrams jumped ship long before the end. Not a good sign really when an important person behind the show exits early.

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For those of you who watched Lost, did you stick with it till the end, do you think the writers were just making it all up as they went along, did you love or loathe the finale?

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Song of the Summer: Waves

Every summer I’m lucky to find a new song that will be in my playlist forever. This summer it’s Mr. Probz’s “Waves”. The remix is the one I fell in love with, but I went looking for the original and it’s beautiful.

I’ve pasted both videos from YouTube below.

There’s a summery feel of sunshine, romance and melancholy. Yes, I realise melancholy and summer shouldn’t go together, but somehow they do. Maybe because summer is so fleeting.

Here’s the hypnotic version that pulled me in. And the guy in the video is quite nice to look at.

Here’s the quieter track.

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What are you listening to this summer?

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Posted in Songs that can change your life (or at the very least your day) | Tagged , | 26 Comments

Film Rant – Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

I went to see this film last night expecting to be happily entertained for a couple of hours. Instead I left deflated and fighting a “pissed off” feeling.

dawn

Among the hundreds of human survivors in post-apocalyptic San Francisco and the large group of apes in the forests, the cast consisted of just two female characters, one ape, one human. The human woman, Ellie, was played by Keri Russell. Some may know her from The Americans. I remember her from her days on Malibu Shores. The female ape – As far as I know she wasn’t addressed by name. She was Caesar’s wife, gave birth to his  son, got sick and that was the extent of her character.

The gang of human survivors: I noticed a couple of female faces in the crowd but they were nameless and voiceless. The group of humans who venture into the apes’ territory? All male except for Russell who has very little to do. In fact she’s left entirely out of the final battle scene.

How about the females in ape society? Apart from Caesar’s wife, I didn’t see any. The only reference to females was Koba saying females and young were to stay put while the rest of his army went out to fight. That was about the moment I half choked on my fizzy cola bottle sweet.

Seriously. Just seriously. I’ve seen mostly four star reviews in the local newspapers as well as online. Did the critics notice the glaringly obvious lack of female characters, or are they just ignoring it? How about the writers and directors? My gut tells me no one set out to intentionally create a film almost devoid of a female voice, but that’s what has happened.

As I’m writing this, I’m starting to get angrier than I was watching this film. This new “Dawn” is one where women are not welcome.

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Have you seen Dawn of the Planet of the Apes?

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