Based on true events, 16 year-old Jamie falls in with his mother's new boyfriend and his crowd of self-appointed neighborhood watchmen, a relationship that leads to a spree of torture and murder.
Release Year: 2011
Rating: 6.7/10 (2,714 voted)
Critic's Score: 65/100
Stars: Lucas Pittaway, Daniel Henshall, Louise Harris
Storyline Sixteen-year-old Jamie lives with his mother, Elizabeth, and two younger brothers, Alex and Nicholas, in a housing trust home in Adelaide's northern suburbs. Their home is but one of many sun-starved houses crammed together to cater for a disenfranchised society. Jamie longs for an escape from the violence and hopelessness that surrounds him and his salvation arrives in the form of John, a charismatic man who unexpectedly comes to his aid. As John spends more and more time with Jamie's family, Elizabeth and her boys begin to experience a stability and sense of family that they have never known. John moves from the role of Jamie's protector to that of a mentor, indoctrinating Jamie into his world, a world brimming with bigotry, righteousness and malice. Like a son mimicking his father, Jamie soon begins to take on some of John's traits and beliefs as he spends more and more time with him and his select group of friends...
Writers: Shaun Grant, Shaun Grant
Cast: Lucas Pittaway
Filming Locations: Adelaide, South Australia, Australia
Did You Know?
This movie was based on a true story.
A movie I can neither recommend nor rate. But acknowledge as film making surpassed by few others.
I have never written a review before - of film, television, book or any
other. In fact, I've never written anything.
But having, what I can only describe as, endured "Snowtown" for the
longest two hours of my life, I feel compelled to put to paper what an
extraordinary accomplishment it is.
On the one hand.
On the other, I damn the director, writer, producer and actors for
making it. Or at least, making it so well.
Because if this film had been made badly, it would be forgotten and
brushed under the carpet. Instead, it will be revered as a blueprint of
all realistic horror, a benchmark to which others will undoubtedly be
judged. Which is an accolade that should be nowhere near someone as
vile as John Bunting.
This is not your usual movie-goer horror. Save for one never-ending
torture scene, there is little gore, blood or screaming. Just empty
lives, slowly dissolved by an evil one.
For me, the Saw franchise was aimed at the teen market. And whilst
there is no doubt that it is horrifically gory, I don't think I would
lose sleep over my teenage child watching it. However, if I discovered
my teenage child had watched "Snowtown" I think I would want to spend
the next week propped up at the end of their bed, making sure they knew
I was there. "Just if you need me."
Following the perspective of 16 year-old Jamie Vlassakis, the film
traps you in the room as a silent participator, whilst he is befriended
and groomed by Bunting.
By the time it had finished I felt as though I was complicit - that
having merely watched had turned me into an accomplice. On more than
one occasion I was close to switching it off.
But such is the masterful direction, the suffocatingly silent screams
of emotion and need to see whether the boy will escape from the hell he
is zombie-footing towards, you feel you owe it to him to ride it out.
Before watching, I knew only one thing about this film - that it was
based on a true story. The gaps left in the plot by the director are
intimidatingly adept at disorientating you, making you feel as
manipulated as the individuals re-shaped at will by the serial killer
The treatment of the murders is so skilfully handled - at times using
voice recordings of the victims to tell you that time has passed and
the depths of evil he has swum to have increased. At others, using
morally numb expressions to warn you of the horrors either being
carried out, or to come.
The torture scene itself is abhorrent, yet disturbingly hypnotic. Where
I would usually look away, I couldn't and found myself glued to what
was unfolding; mentally pleading for it to stop. It, in itself, is a
reduced study of everything John Bunting pursued. The acting from both
Pittaway and Henshall, in this scene, but not alone, is worthy of any
peer or award.
Henshall is magnificent. Charismatic, believable and chilling -
initially as an undeniable, albeit ruthless, role model in a town
bereft of individuals with self-worth or respect. And latterly
unfolding to reveal a cold, blood hungry psychopath.
The stench of death truly is palpable, of both flesh and society. It
doesn't make you want to hide behind your sofa, it makes you want to
claw at your sofa so that you can curl up and hide inside it.
Recommending this film to your friends would be a bit like recommending
hard drugs to them. It may open their eyes - but at what cost? It is
something that should not be your choice, you don't need the
My final words must go to the director, Justin Kurzel, for whom I
understand this to be a directorial debut. I genuinely don't know how.
I have watched many films, almost always with an amateur critic's eye,
and this ranks up there as one of the most soul trembling films I've
Please turn your hand to action or comedy. I don't think I can face
another of this genre from you.