Snowtown tells the story of Jamie and how he came to know Australlia’s worst serial killer; John Bunting.
This is one of the toughest films I’ve watched in a long long time and was close to walking out at various points. Would I ever watch it again ? Never. Would I recommend it to people to see? No. Now it’s not a bad film, far from it, hence the three stars but to recommend this to somebody might involve said somebody never speaking to you again and hugging the wall as they pass by you in social situations.
When it becomes apparent that Jamie (Lucas Pittaway) and his brothers are being abused by their Mum’s friend the services of John Bunting (Daniel Henshall) are enlisted to do what the police can’t or won’t. It soon becomes clear though John has much more drastic plans for the paedophiles and homosexuals of Western Australia. The relationship between Jamie and John is then explored over the next two hours as the director, Justin Kurzel, teases out what motivated these people to carry out such horrific crimes.
All the performances are fantastic most notably that of Daniel Henshall whose portrayal of a clearly deluded psychopath is terrifying and completely believable. We sympathise with Jamie as he hopes to have finally found a father figure to look up to and understand his horror as the bravado knight in shining armour of John corrodes to show the true monster underneath. All the supporting roles are superb and give us a real insight to what life was like for the poorer members of society in 90s Australia who the state was only too happy to leave to their own devices.
What makes the film so tough is its brutal reality, there is no melodrama or pandering by Kurzel with all acts of violence and abuse happening quickly and without music or soft lighting. One scene however does go on much longer than necessary and the scene involving kangaroo carrions is almost unwatchable. It was these scenes that left an unpleasant sheen on my eyeballs. While I realise that the director is telling the story of John and showing the extent of the torture he carried out on his victims I feel if more time was spent investigating his reasons and delight at seeing people suffer it would have resulted in a more rounded film. While Jamie represents us the viewer and asks how would we cope in such a situation this was not sufficient in making it a worthwhile film for me.
A raw, powerful no frills film that takes you into the world but not the mind of a serial killer whether you like it or not.
Justin Kurzel / Shaun Grant / Starring: Lucas Pittaway, Bob Adriaens and Louise Harris / 119 min / Crime, Drama / Australia / Release: 18 November 2011 (Irl/UK)