Based on a true story, that of Australia’s most notorious serial killer, John Bunting, Snowtown takes us to a part of the country we rarely encounter: a housing estate in Adelaide’s northern suburbs. Sixteen year old Jamie Vlassakis (Lucas Pittaway) and his two younger brothers live with their single mother in what appears to be a violent and often abusive neighbourhood.
John, a self-proclaimed vigilante type that has made it his mission to rid the town of any kind of child molestation, comes into the life of their mother, after she comes to realise that the man she’s seeing has sexually abused her sons. John easily wins over her and her sons, particularly the sixteen year old Jamie, and he becomes the father figure the boys have long been waiting for.
…the film will drag you down into a dark and ugly place and insist you give it a long hard look.
Snowtown hits you in the gut and it’s not a blow that’s cushioned in any way. From the film’s cinematography to soundtrack, everything about the film will drag you down into a dark and ugly place and insist you give it a long, hard look. That is the film’s strength and perhaps also its weakness. We witness the violence and sexual abuse straight-on and in graphic detail. This straight-forward narrative approach is commendable but perhaps at times unwarranted.
The cast consists of many newcomers including real people from the area. Daniel Henshall, who plays the role of John, was particularly memorable. He brings a special kind of diabolism to the character of John Bunting that is at once paternal and loathsome. However I do think the audience’s reception of his portrayal will vary greatly depending on their background knowledge of the Bunting massacres.
…a portrayal of violence and abuse…
The film has very little to say and ends being more of a portrayal of violence and abuse than really getting behind the question that always makes for a more moving story; why?
Images courtesy of Snowtown