Snowtown Murders (2011, 1 hr 59 mins)
I had heard from people here and there, and through half-read reviews, that the Snowtown Murders was a violent, mindbending and some say, unwatchable film. I’m a pretty tough pixie when it comes to horror or psychological thrillers, and I can truly say this film was chilling and still resonates. It was based on a very real and incarcerated serial killer, John Bunting, his murders, and the family he was involved with spanning the 1990’s. And I have to note that the violence was not more disturbing than a slasher film or any of those gore porn crappers out there. What disturbed me was the fact that this was a true crime and someone actually thought this way.
This film takes place in a hard luck low-income neighbourhood where bumper shopping carts is the main event. Elizabeth (Louise Harris), is a mother who has a gaggle of sons, 3 of which live with her. She is smitten by her helpful boyfriend who will look after her boys in a heartbeat. Because he is a pedophile. When the neighbourhood tranny alerts her to this sick information, she calls the cops and ends the abuse of her boys.
Enter John (Daniel Henshall), a cherubic man who is quick to smile and lend a hand. He rallies the neighbourhood parents together to vent about the injustices of men taking advantage of their children. He is the picture of support-pointing out the neglect of the lower classes by the powers that be. He is also behind a campaign to remove the pedophile ex-boyfriend from the house across the street from Elizabeth, and his harassment prevails. After dousing his house with roadkill remains, the offender packs his trailer and leaves.
Jamie (Lucas Pittaway), one of Elizabeth’s older sons, takes a liking to John. He is the father and protector Jamie lacks, and John takes him under his wing and wins Elizabeth’s heart. When Jamie is horrifically raped by his older brother Troy, he begins to stay at John’s house. They bond further, even sporting matching buzz cuts. John instills manhood in Jamie; tells him to get some balls. How does he do this? By making Jamie shoot his harmless dog. John’s cruel nature starts to seep out and slowly spread like a stain on the family. He has a list of pedophiles, and he intends to check each and every one off. You can also add drug addicts, gays, and people who just rub him the wrong way.
The man Jamie admires has now forced himself onto the family and taken over, wielding his sadistic, authoritative power over many in his wake. Elizabeth is now defeated, barely protesting John’s cruel disciplinary acts with the boys, and Jamie becomes caught up in his web of murder and deceit. After showing Jamie the dead body of his friend Barry, John manipulates Jamie into becoming an accessory as he becomes the disposer of victims’ belongings. Jamie also has to witness the torture of his rapist brother. While we all think Troy deserves a good thrashing, justice should also come in the form of an arrest. Instead, John gets an eye for an eye, and when Jamie is forced to watch, he ends Troy’s life himself, unable to bear the scene and overcome with rage and grief. And so the grooming is complete. It is terrifying to see John’s charisma and logic worm its way into Jamie’s head and heart, killing his spirit and humanity through fear and domination.
This tale is so bleak and so realistic it tears at your heart. The low-income neighbourhood setting speaks volumes to the neglect of its masses. John uses this to breed contempt and to justify his psychotic urges, because according to him, no one cares about or misses his targets. The shooting style is effectively stark and simplistic. Slow motion scenes punctuated with the voice overs of victims’ final voice messages orchestrated by John chills the blood. Apparently, most of the cast were first-time actors. They were amazing and really hit home how hopeless they felt their situation was. Amidst the bleakness and the unfortunate deaths of the victims, we can at least be glad that “Australia’s worst serial killer”, and his accomplices, are behind bars.
There were no favourite scenes or lines. It was all a great big shit show and I would be a total psycho if I said I had a favourite anything from this movie. I just thought it was well done, if it had to be done at all.