Alice Palmer is a sixteen year old girl, that drowns while swimming in the local dam. Her body is eventually recovered, and her grieving family then starts experiencing strange events. Thinking it’s got something to do with their recently deceased daughter, they seek the help of a psychic who starts digging into Alice’s past. He reveals that Alice used to have secrets, and that she was living a double life that her family wasn’t aware of. The family then tries to figure out a connection between her death and the experiences they’re going through.
While most horror movies featuring a ghost depicts them as either vengeful or harmful, “Lake Mungo” takes quite a different approach. Written and directed by Joel Anderson, this film is made in a faux documentary style (“mockumentary”). It shows how a grieving family tries to figure out if they are haunted by their deceased daughter/sister. Is her appearance on her brother’s photos a call from beyond the grave? Are the things they’re experiencing caused by Alice’s ghost, or is everything just a manifestation of their grief?
The documentary-style fits the movie rather well, giving it a much more realistic and eerie tone. There’s a few twists and turns throughout the story, making it a mystery filled with secrets, surprises and even lies, all eventually leading the family to a place called Lake Mungo (which is an actual dry lake in Australia) where Alice apparently was camping before she died. The pacing is a bit slow while it’s building towards more and more reveals, and there are some twists and turns that might seem unnecessary and even totally irrelevant to Alice’s demise. The slow pacing of the movie is likely to be perceived as tedious by some, but this is a film that does not rely on the effectiveness of only certain parts, but rather as a whole-package thing.
“Lake Mungo” is not a movie whose main goal is to make you jump in your seat, but instead wants to crawl under your skin. There are a few scenes here that actually got to me (and that’s something that happens very rarely!), and for me it was the whole idea of loss and grief mixed with the supernatural goings-on that got to me. It was for the most part a very melancholic and sad movie (if Mr. Ghööl had a “Sad” badge, it would fit well here). It isn’t a movie with huge scares and shocking moments, but it’s unsettling and different. “Lake Mungo” is an exploration into grief and loss and the thought of maybe being haunted by a loved one, and your ability to connect with such experiences will probably have a lot to say on how you perceive this film.
Director: Joel Anderson Country & year: Australia, 2008 Actors: Rosie Traynor, David Pledger, Martin Sharpe, Talia Zucker, Tania Lentini, Cameron Strachan, Judith Roberts, Robin Cuming, Marcus Costello, Chloe Armstrong, Carole Patullo, John Dunn, Laurie Dunn, Kirsty McDonald, James Lawson IMDb: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0816556/
“Hell House LLC” starts with some news-clips where we learn that an abandoned hotel, which has been transformed into a haunted house tour in a small town outside New York, ended in disaster on 8th October 2009. Several people were killed and injured, and nobody knows what really happened, but the police vaguely blames the outburst on a major malfunction. With the suspicion that the police are holding back some info from the public, it creates conspiracy theories among some local journalists who starts their own investigation. They get in contact with one of Hell House’s crew members, Sarah, who gives them all the raw footage that documents the whole process which spans from August 23rd to October 8th. When she is asked why she hasn’t turned this over to the police, she simply says “you’ll see”. Alright, so let’s take a look.
We get introduced to these four crew members who just arrives at Hotel Abaddon and starts to explore its environments and settles in, and decides to stay for the night. The days go by, and they’re installing the electricity, making the effects and props ready, and everything seems to go as planned, until weird shit starts to happen. Doors are opening and closing by themselves, and from one of the static cams we see a glimpse of an obscure person walking around wearing something that looks like a grim reaper-cape. Boo. When they start hiring local actors to the attraction, one of them reveals that the hotel has a dark past and the rumors are saying that the previous owner hanged himself in the hotel’s dining room. And as if that wasn’t bad enough, the crew hears more unsettling stories based in the hotel’s past, and even satanic rituals are mentioned. And just to top that, the hotel is named after a demon from The Book of Revelation known as The Angel of Death. The name Abaddon, which also means ruin, death, desolation, and destruction. Yay. Nothing bad could ever happen here, so just enjoy your stay, and if you survive, please give us a positive review at Yelp…
Haunted house attractions are clearly a huge business in USA, where 35 million people around the states are visiting them in October each year to get a great scare (hey, that rhymed). And of course, this concept also makes great set-up for a horror-movie or two. Besides of this we have “The Houses that October Built” which is a more like a half-documentary done in Borat-style where they travel from different states to explore and get a unique insight to the community. Even though Hell House LLC was actually shot in a real haunted house attraction called Haunting at the Waldorf Hotel, it was only used as location with the fictitious title Abaddon Hotel.
It’s not uncommon to put on a found footage horror and expect the worst. How many films like this haven’t been spewed out like cheap burgers to be either total lackluster or forgotten trash, in the hopes of becoming the next Blair Witch or Paranormal Activity? But sometimes, if you really dig in the found footage-jungle, there’s some gold to find. And what a pleasant surprise Hell House LLC was. Writer and director Stephen Cognetti does a pretty steady job combining the documentary and found footage-style, while the horror itself relies mostly on the psychological and the atmosphere. The hotel’s dark backstory and lore are also intriguing and is spicing up the mood, not to mention the creepy decorations hanging around that adds to the atmosphere. This is overall a very well made horror flick with great acting, and a tension that builds up to the finale.”Hell House LLC” is probably on the same level as “Grave Encounters” (2011), another found footage film that really knew how to use the format.
The Sequel “Hell House LLC II: The Abaddon Hotel” was released on the streaming service shudder.com. It’s also available from other sources, but since we live in Norway we haven’t actually found any place where we can watch it (yet) as Shudder is not available here, and the other sources are region locked and mostly only available in USA or UK. Bummer. As we currently speak, the third installment is being filmed, called “Hell House LLC III: Lake of Fire”. So when comes the Hell House Trilogy Box-Set? We just have to wait and see, I guess…we currently own “Hell House LLC” on dvd, and so far it looks like the only other option for us to check out the other movies is to wait (and hope for) a dvd release when the third film is finished.
Director: Stephen Cognetti Country & year: USA, 2015 Actors: Gore Abrams, Alice Bahlke, Danny Bellini, Theodore Bouloukos, Natalie Gee, Jared Hacker, Phil Hess, Ryan Jennifer Jones, Lauren A. Kennedy, Jeb Kreager, Miranda Robbins, Adam Schneider, Kristin Michelle Taylor IMDb: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt4267026/
“Ghostwatch” is a live-documentary that was broadcasted on Halloween night on British national television in 1992. The show opens in a studio at BBC with the dry elderly host Michael Parkinson in suit and tie, saying “The program you’re about to watch is a unique live investigation of the supernatural. It contains material that some viewers may find to be disturbing.” Then we get introduced to the “most haunted house in England”, a council house in North London, where a single mother and her two young daughters are being tormented by poltergeist activity. With BBC’s reporters, cameras and some paranormal investigators in place, they’re ready to hopefully get some paranormal activity on tape for the whole of Britain to see live. The studio also has a phone-number the viewers can call during the broadcast to share their own experiences with the paranormal. Further into the investigation we learn that the family is apparently haunted by a male ghost called Pipes, who likes to hide behind the curtains in the children’s bedroom. We even see a manifestation of him in the children’s bedroom after they’ve gone to sleep, and things starts to get from bad to worse while the cameras keeps rolling.
By the way, did I mention that the documentary was just a big, fat hoax? Written by screenwriter and horror novelist Stephen Volk who pitched the idea originally as a conventional drama to the producer Ruth Baumgarten at BBC. It was meant to be a segment of a series, but the producer wanted to go for a single, and Volk got the idea to make it as a real transmission from a haunted house in War of The Worlds-style. The producer loved the idea and asked Volk if they could do this. Well, let’s try, he simply replied. And they certainly did, and succeeded far more at what they had imagined, in both a positive and a negative way. Lesley Manning was hired to direct, and filmed the whole thing one week in advance before it was broadcasted as a “live” event in a haunted house on Halloween night. And with a huge budget, believable actors, the well known and respected Michael Parkinson as a host, and to top it all, watermaked by BBC, what could go possibly wrong? Oh, well..
Although it was presented as live and real, broadcasted on the trusted BBC, we got an obvious big hint at the end when the titles started scrolling, that this was a hoax. In other words; you’ve been fooled, there’s no Hairy Scary or a Crooked Man hiding under your bed. It’s safe, have your tea, go to sleep, good night. But damage was already done as half of Britain was nearly traumatized and scared shitless, in addition to being confused and pissed off. For those of us who grew up in the 80’s, it’s not hard to imagine the impact of a case like this. This was presented as a raw, authentic, unfiltered documentation of a family who was tormented by poltergeist activity for all to watch on TV in their safe living-room at home. And I know I would have had nightmares for a long time myself if I saw something like this when I was teen in 1992. There was no internet where people could jump right into to make some thousands tweets and upload hundreds of reviews and analysing-to-death videos on YouTube and debunking the whole thing before the end credits even started rolling. That type of exposure didn’t exist in those days, and that was also the beauty of it, unless you read newspapers the days after. It kept some of the mystery going and people talking. God, I feel old now…
During the broadcast that night, Stephen Volk sat in a pub somewhere with the cast and crew celebrating while watching their masterpiece, completely unaware of the aftermath that followed. After it ended, the producer arrived to tell them that there had been a lot of complaints tonight. Volk took that as a “great, it worked / Ha Ha / fooled you all” with a big grin on his face. 30. 000 had called BBC with feelings of shock, anger and confusion. Three pregnant women went into labor through being shocked, a lot of parents were angry when their kids couldn’t sleep that night. Volk’s personal favorite was a letter sent to the producer by a woman whose husband was a veteran of the Falklands War, who was so scared watching the program that he’d literally shit his pants. And she was writing to get compensation to buy him a new pair of jeans. The next day the shit-storm in media didn’t waste any time and headlined in the tabloids “The Heads Must Roll at BBC” which resulted in the network deciding to bury the whole program and never broadcast it, and pretend it never existed. So yeah, a complete shit-show for the poor bastards at BBC. But while these can be considered laughable incidents, it got worse.
Five days after the broadcast, an 18 year old man killed himself due to the psychological effects it had on him. He left with a suicide note saying “Mother, do not be upset. If there are ghosts I will now be one and I will always be with you as one.“. His parents claimed that he was “hypnotized and obsessed” by the program and blamed BBC. A case with Post-traumatic stress disorder was also reported with two ten years old boys who also got deeply affected. You can of course debate whether it’s justifiable to blame a TV-show for this, but fortunately there weren’t more reported casualties.
It wasn’t until 2002 “Ghostwatch” got its first reincarnation on VHS and DVD on its 10th year anniversary, with commentary track by Stephen Volk, director Leslie Manning and producer Ruth Baumgarten. And as a gold-digging-trivia gem as this is, a retrospect documentary was made in 2013 called “Ghostwatch: Behind The Curtains” with interviews of the cast and crew.
“Ghostwatch” is a fun watch (Ghost-Fun-Watch), but mostly due to its wild concept that was new and fresh at the time, and how this cultural phenomenon literally scared and scarred a whole nation out of the blue and buried BBC in angry letters from terrified viewers. Orson Welle’s radio hoax “The War of the Worlds” from 1928 must be the only case besides of this that pops in mind. This is just a one of a kind that deserves its recognition and legacy, and also a part in history of horror movies. Having such a backstory and the huge controversy in mind, while putting your mindset back to 1992 and imagine watching it on an old TV, it makes an even better viewing experience.
Director: Lesley Manning Country & year: UK, 1992 Actors: Michael Parkinson, Sarah Greene, Mike Smith, Craig Charles, Gillian Bevan, Brid Brennan, Michelle Wesson, Cherise Wesson, Chris Miller, Mike Aiton IMDb: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0200659/
In a serial killer’s now abandoned home, investigators reveal a large amount of VHS tapes that contains his “work” in chronological order as he’s been filming the murders and abuse of his victims. This is the most disturbing collection of evidence the homicide detectives have ever seen, and reveals an in-depth documentation of a serial killer’s reign of terror.
Made in a “mockumentary” (faux documentary) style, this is a somewhat creepy and unsettling movie. It’s the first horror movie John Erick Dowdle’s directed, and later he became known for “Quarantine” (2008), “Devil” (2010) and “As above so below” (2014). The movie contains a very realistic tone throughout, with “interviews” and “footage” that are made to be believeable and helps putting the dark and grim atmosphere in place. In many ways it reflects “true crime shows” so well that you could probably have fooled someone who didn’t know it’s a faux documentary.
The murders and torture of the victims of the serial killer (who has been nicknamed “the water street butcher”) is somewhat toned down despite being quite chilling. There isn’t large amounts of blood and gore here, but the “footage” shows enough for you to know exactly what’s going on, along with detailed descriptions by the investigators. It’s not a movie that’s gory or straight-out scary, but it’s definitely creepy and unsettling.
Serial killers have always fascinated a lot of people. What can make a (seemingly) normal person commit such atrocious acts? How can they manage to keep from being caught over such a long time? And how many serial killers are still on the lose around the world? Those thoughts can be more frightening than occasional nightmarish thoughts about monsters and bogeymen…serial killers are real, and they’re out there. The FBI estimates that there are about 25-50 active serial killers operating through the U.S. at any given time (which is also referenced in this movie, actually). Many have asked if the movie is based upon a real serial killer, whereas the director has answered that it’s not, but inspired by several. In Poughkeepsie there was actually a real serial killer, Kendall Francois, who killed eight women in the period of 1997-98.
If you’re interested in a well-made serial killer mockumentary with a quite realistic tone, you should check this one out.
Director: John Erick Dowdle Country & year: USA, 2007 Actors: Stacy Chbosky, Ben Messmer, Samantha Robson, Ivar Brogger, Lou George, Amy Lyndon, Michael Lawson, Ron Harper, Kim Kenny IMDb:https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1010271/