Wednesday, 28 October 2009

CS - Friday: Lake Mungo & Trick 'R Treat

Lake Mungo

Year: 2008
Director: Joel Anderson
Writer: Joel Anderson
Starring: Rosie Traynor, David Pledger, Martin Sharpe & Talia Zucker

Lake Mungo kicked off the Celluloid Screams festival, and what a start. It's a (fictional) documentary that charts a family's grief after the loss of it's teenage daughter who drowns in the local dam. After finding her body and burying her, the family witness a series of bizarre and inexplicable events that lead them to believe that her spirit is still among them.

What sounds on paper like quite a cheesy horror film is actually more of a slow-burning drama that is creepy and has it's share of frights but is also surprisingly touching and intelligent. The story takes some very interesting turns as it progresses, which jar at first, but as events unfold it all makes sense.

It really is an impressively controlled affair, especially coming from a first-time writer/director, and is possibly one of the most effective uses of the pseudo-documentary format that I've come across (bar Spinal Tap, but that's a whole other type of film). It doesn't do anything half-baked like District 9 which gives up on the documentary format half way through, or like Cloverfield which is way too glossy to feel like 'lost footage'. Lake Mungo uses a classic documentary format, i.e. talking heads mixed with primary sources and classily shot location footage after the event, and sticks to it, which makes the story feel truly real and truly personal. The believable performances help cement this too.

I really hope this gets a proper release (nothing is listed in the UK on IMDB) as this is mature, dramatic horror that deserves to be seen.


Trick 'R Treat

Year: 2008
Director: Michael Dougherty
Writer: Michael Dougherty
Starring: Anna Paquin, Brian Cox & Dylan Baker

Trick 'R Treat takes the traditional horror anthology format and gives it an Altman style interwoven story treatment. This is no wordy, improvisational drama though, Trick 'R Treat is purely made for fun and thrills, which it delivers admirably.

It contains 4 plot-lines concerning various Halloween 'rules', one shows what happens when a couple blow out their jack-o-lanterns out before midnight, another uncovers a school principle's secret life as a serial killer, a twenty-something virgin hopes to find love, and a group of teenagers play pranks around a supposedly haunted quarry.

As I mentioned before this isn't a film that needs to be taken seriously. It reminded me of the Hollywood horror films of the 80's and early 90's, films that aren't all that scary but have enough jolts and gore mixed in with a healthy dose of humour to create an enjoyable Halloween cinema experience. The structure works very well too, and the stories actually flow together quite seamlessly, keeping the pace up and never letting the film sag.

All in all it's perfect late night fodder and it's out on DVD now I think, so well worth tracking down. It's a shame it didn't get a cinema release though, as it's a thoroughly enjoyable film.


More reviews from Celluloid Screams 2009:
Saturday Part 1

Saturday Part 2

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