Jamie (Lucas Pittaway) is a withdrawn boy, approaching 16 he lives in a semi-rural community and spends much of his day look after his younger brothers, or hanging round at the arcade. When Mum Elizabeth (Louise Harris) hooks up in a relationship with a neighbour, she feels its safe to leave her kids in his care while she is away. But the neighbour sexually assaults all the boys, and local transvestite Barry (Richard Green) is the one to break the news, and also the one to introduce her to John Bunting (Daniel Henshall), who makes their problems go away, that is until he starts to add to them.
Snowtown is based on the events that surrounded the murder of eleven people in rural Australia between 1992 and 1999, at the hands of John Bunting and his accomplices. Bunting was a powerful man mentally, who managed to swing people round to his way of thinking, it was his way of thinking that saw the death of his victims all of whom he saw as being gay, a sexual offender, or a danger due to their physical or mental disabilities.
Through the movie you see John become a kind father figure to Jamie, protecting him from various threats, and widening his eyes to a better way of life. Having done so, he then begins to take control of Jamie, by forcing him to see things his way. While Jamie is not necessarily a willing accomplice, he does (as the movie shows) stay with John simply for fear of his life.
Snowtown has that brooding, disturbing look about it, the sort of look that only an Australian movie maker can deliver. I always think that Australians do not want people visiting or emigrating to Australia, as recent movies such as this and X show a fairly bleak look of the country, that is about as inviting as a trip to Afghanistan. From grubby people, to wasteland locations, and buildings in decline, nothing visually about this movie is inviting. The story is equally un-inviting, from paedophilia, incest, and all sorts of sexual depravity and reference, this really is the darkest hour in Australian cinema.
While I say it’s dark, it is also incredibly good, only those with an interest in serial killers will probably know of Bunting, and this story is told in a very accurate way, feels so far fetched you really would believe that this is a work of fiction rather than fact.Every single aspect in the movie is well thought out, and feels like it's seen through the eyes of the central characters.
New director John Kurzel, has an interesting way of telling the story, while it remains very unpleasant visually, you don’t really see very much, although you feel like you have seen so much more. You also have to pay an awful lot of attention, because it’s very subtle; certainly ten of the eleven murders are covered in the movie, but in such a way unless you are paying close attention you’ll miss them. While you do not see, or get the build up to the killings, they are slowly revealed and in a really heartbreaking way. Kurzel shows Bunting building relationships with his victims (again I gather accurately) and this really takes things to another level of unpleasantness. So for example one minute he accepts transvestite Barry into his inner circle, the next minute he’s dead, and again in such a way you really would miss it unless you are paying real attention.
Performances are solid from each and every one of the cast, and this is the real power-base for the movie; especially from baby faced Henshall, who really adjusted his appearance to provide both a charming and disturbing element.
I find it bizarre that so little is said about Snowtown, especially with audiences that like to push the limits a little. This is a movie that is so much more disturbing than The Human Centipede, and A Serbian Film; mainly made so because it’s real. Snowtown is an important film, a tale that needed to be told, if only for the victims to be remembered.It also is important because it shows how innocents, can be mentally overpowered by those who are more dangerous.
Snowtown is available on DVD and Blu-Ray now.