Snowtown is the most disturbing of the films I saw at the New Zealand Film Festival, and centers around the events of the infamous Snowtown murders in Australia in the 90’s. The film is gritty and raw, with the opening scenes showing a poor, rundown community where a disturbing form of vigilante justice is about to be born.
When the separated mother of teenage boys discovers that her ex has been taking naked picture of them, she finds a sympathetic ear in the charismatic John Bunting, who manages to work his way into the family and gets the community rallied around to help expel the father through increasingly morbid acts of vandalism.
Unbeknown to the mother (or most of the local community) Bunting is not only getting close to her, but also her 16 year old son, Jamie, slowly grooming him to become a serial killer. The lack of a responsible father figure, and his older brother raping him, makes Jamie an easy target for Bunting, who essentially grooms him to help in his murderous rampage of anyone he decides is a menace to society, predominantly pedophiles.
The strength of Snowtown is in numerous places. The obvious is in it’s approach to telling the story. Sure we do get to see a bit of extreme violence and some torture – but this is no where near the gratuitous torture-porn of the likes of Hostel. We only get to see what is ‘necessary’ to get the point across – but that’s not to say it’s and easy watch.
The other main strength is that of Daniel Henshall and his freakishly lovable character of John Bunting, who, if you didn’t know what Snowtown was about, you wouldn’t pick for a evil, scheming, serial killer.
Whilst Snowtown won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, it does seem to bring a level headed approach to the ‘based on a true story’ serial killer genre, and manages to create a story where you end up hating just about all the main characters!
Reviewed by: Jonathan Read