The Direct to Video Connoisseur

I'm a huge fan of action, horror, sci-fi, and comedy, especially of the Direct to Video variety. In this blog I review some of my favorites and not so favorites, and encourage people to comment and add to the discussion. If you click on an image, it will take you to that post's image page, which includes many more pics from the film and other goodies I couldn't fit in the actual review. For announcements and updates, don't forget to Follow us on Twitter and Like our Facebook page. If you're the director, producer, distributor, etc. of a low-budget feature length film and you'd like to send me a copy to review, you can contact me at dtvconnoisseur[at]yahoo.com. I'd love to check out what you got.

Announcement

Announcement

Hi everyone, it's been a while since I checked the page, and I wanted to make a few announcements.

First and foremost, it appears a dubious site has claimed the old url, meaning any link in any review that goes to the old mattmovieguy url is corrupt. I'm in the process of trying to remove them all, but it's a lot! It's best not to click on any link without hovering over it first to make sure it doesn't have mattmovieguy in the url.

Second, it appears since my last trip to the blog, Photobucket has decided to charge for third party hosting, meaning none of my images are appearing anymore. That's simply an aesthetic issue, but still annoying.

Thank you all for your patience, and again, hopefully this will all be fixed soon.

--Matt

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Lake Mungo (2008)

Photobucket

For the month of October, our friend Francisco over at The Film Connoisseur is doing a Halloween theme centered on supernatural films, and wanted to know if I wouldn't mind looking at that horror subgenre from the DTV angle. I said sure, but as I haven't reviewed too many before-- and many of the ones I have reviewed weren't that great-- I asked if he had some suggestions that I could take a look at in addition to the ones I'd already seen and was considering for inclusion. This was one of the ones he mentioned.

Lake Mungo is an Australian flick, presented in a TV documentary format, that looks at a family whose daughter drowns, and the mysterious happenings at their house afterwards. It's told through a combination of interviews, home videos, family photos. What is this family seeing? Has their dead daughter really come back to haunt them? What secrets was she hiding? And what are the motives behind a famous psychic who takes one her case for the family's mother?

Photobucket

I really enjoyed this movie, but I'm not sure it's for everyone. There's an almost "what's the point?" feeling when all is said and done, like, why was this movie made, but it worked for me. One thing that might be difficult for American audiences to handle is the very understated nature of the entire production. American TV news magazines are more sensationalist, always looking to shock us, or act like they may shock us later in the episode, in an attempt to keep us interested. This has none of that, it's a story that unfolds at a very deliberate pace, and though it builds tension, it's done in a subtler way. That works especially contrary to American horror films too, which is what this is marketed as, when it's probably more of an attempt to take a ghost story and dissect it in a way that a modern TV show or documentary film maker might do.

Again, that difference between hitting us between the eyes and trying to shock us versus just giving us a story in a very even, solid way that builds upon itself more organically is a tough transition for us Yanks. If you've ever seen the BBC version of Gordon Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares versus the FOX counterpart, you know how sharp the juxtaposition is. And when you throw on top of that American horror audiences as the target, you're talking about an even more finicky bunch. They want their kills and their excitement. In that sense, this movie isn't like that at all. When I think horror, I think the pacing of a musical, only with kills in the place of the dance numbers. This is an art house flick, but an attempt to put the supernatural in the context of the modern TV documentary, and the detail with which they do that, to the point that this feels like it's a true TV documentary, is really fantastic. For what it was, I really enjoyed it, but I can see how someone going in looking for something else might be disappointed.

Photobucket

That being said, I think this movie does some things with the horror genre that we've lost in recent years, so I hope not many people are disappointed if they see this. Lake Mungo had more of a Hitchcockian or Lynchian feel to it, even if it was done in an experimental TV documentary style. There was a focus on the psychological aspect of horror, as opposed to the gore or the torture aspect. Believe me, I like a good gorefest as much as the next guy (see my Dance of the Dead review), but when this kind of horror is done well, it's really worth taking a look at, and I hope the success of something like this, at least on the American video market, will convince more film makers to take this kind of thing on in the future. I think there's room for both in the market, though I might be wrong.

The Lynchian aspect for me comes in this almost Twin Peaks way that the world of Alice Palmer's life unfolds after she dies-- even the name, Palmer, like Laura Palmer, is similar. It's obviously very different in style, where Twin Peaks was cinematic, and this was done in a TV documentary style, but I couldn't help but see the similarities in the main story components. Speaking of Twin Peaks, I can't believe that show is 20 years old. I actually didn't see it until Bravo reaired it in 1996-- which is crazy in itself, to think of Bravo airing Twin Peaks considering what their programming is like now-- but that's still 15 years ago. It's definitely something I need to revisit. You wouldn't believe how many young twentysomethings on Tumblr post pics and whatnot from it. Makes me feel old.

Photobucket

Finally, I have a confession to make: I thought the mom was pretty hot. She was played by a woman named Rosie Traynor, but it was more the character of June Palmer I was attracted to. The long skirts, the dark eyes, the plunging V-necks-- oh, be still my heart! Not to mention that Australian accent. Any woman with the Australian accent can make my heart melt-- all right, maybe not any woman, but a lot of them. You had me at "g'day."

All right, before we run this review totally off the rails, let's wrap things up. I thought this was a really good movie. Just know that you're going in for a more subtle, psychologically based horror flick, told expertly in an experimental TV documentary style. If you dig that kind of thing, or are open minded enough to try it out, I don't think you'll be disappointed.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0816556/

18 comments:

  1. Agreed. This is a really good film if you like the faux documentary style. And that final scare really got me too!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Yeah, it does the faux documentary style so well that it had me thinking it was the real thing, and definitely, it builds so well so that anything big like that that happens is much bigger. Glad you dug it too. Was it big in Australia when it came out?

    ReplyDelete
  3. I wouldn't say that it was big... not even sure it had a cinema release? But it certainly has its fans. Spooky little number.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Well that's what I was wondering, because imdb just listed the budget. All the release dates were for film festivals, so it probably didn't. Definitely one of those gems that slipped through the cracks then, one of those ones that runs contrary to the idea that only crap ends up on DTV, otherwise it would've been in the theaters, because this is not crap by any stretch.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Loved this flick. Moments of it really stuck with me, and I'm glad I'm not the only one who got the David Lynch/Twin Peaks vibe.

    ReplyDelete
  6. At first I didn't think anything of the name "Palmer", but as the film went on, it had that "Who killed Laura Palmer?" feel to it. I'm equally glad I'm not the only one who saw that, but I have a feeling if we both saw it, then many other did too, which is cool.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Great review! Lake Mungo was a solid horror flick!

    ReplyDelete
  8. I'm a sucker for mockumentary and found footage horror films if they're done right, and not to mention a good ghost story, so this was right up my alley. Hands down my favorite of the After Dark Horrorfest films. That bit with the cell phone footage was one of the most terrifying things in a film that I've seen in quite some time. Glad you dug it, DVC.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Great write-up. I think, not sure, that the poster image is a variation from one of the posters for a 70's exploitation flick called The Gore Gore Girls. Have to look into that.

    ReplyDelete
  10. This film unsettled me in a way that hasn't happened in a realllllllly long time. So well done and like you said, its muted style just works so well to build up horror in a very unusual way.

    ReplyDelete
  11. I'm really glad everyone liked this. There isn't much more I can say other than I agree: it was a very solid horror flick, the cell phone footage was great, but also, a big reason why it was great was because we had that slow build up and muted style that made something like that stand out more.

    And you might be right about the cover Dr. Blackseed. With a movie like this, they probably didn't have a natural idea for that kind of thing, so why not borrow from somewhere else.

    ReplyDelete
  12. I was wrong (similar but different). I've seen that picture somewhere before though ...

    ReplyDelete
  13. I'm sure you have. I'm sure they went with something similar to something that's already out there. I can't imagine this was an easy movie to market.

    ReplyDelete
  14. I enjoy documentary style films, if done right, they feel a bit more real then the regular film. You get more involved. I suggested this one, but I havent seen it yet. Still, it pops up in a lot of peoples "best straight to dvd horror" lists.

    So yeah, that collaboration between The Directo to Video Connoisseur and The Film Connoisseur is gonna happen look forward to it in the next couple of days! Matt and I will be suggesting a bunch of straight to dvd horror films that are worth a damn.

    Actually, the article should be up somewhere around OCT. 21, look for it around that time.

    Thanks for the mention Matt!

    ReplyDelete
  15. Also, glad to see so many of your readers enjoyed it! It seems like I'm really going to dig this one as well! Specially since it has a David Lynch vibe going for it, I'm a David Lynch nut! I've missed him all these years where he hasnt released anything...

    ReplyDelete
  16. I didn't know you hadn't seen this! Definitely, I think you'll really enjoy it. And I'll be keeping everyone posted as the month goes on, so check us out on Twitter and Facebook to stay in the loop.

    ReplyDelete
  17. A friend of mine suggested this to me, saying it the documentary style aspect to the film really freaked her out. I don't normally take her advice because she watches films of the Autopsy variety but your review has made me think otherwise. And I can definitely use a good Hitchcockesque film.

    ReplyDelete
  18. I think you'll really enjoy this one, it'll be one of those rare occasions where you and your friend's tastes intersect. Definitely worth checking out.

    ReplyDelete