The Snowtown Murders

Directed By: Justin Kurzel

Starring: Daniel Henshall, Lucas Pittaway, and Louise Harris

I am traumatized.  I viewed The Snowtown Murders yesterday and it took me a full day to collect my thoughts and write about what I witnessed.  I usually do not read other critical reviews of a film until after I have seen the movie.  I like to watch a film unbiased so that I can give a fresh perspective for Sobriety Test readers.  So going into Snowtown, all I knew was that the film was about the worst serial killers in Australian history.  I don’t know what I expected, but I was not prepared for pedophiles, rapes, and headless kangaroos.

Snowtown is the story of Jamie Vlassakis (Lucas Pittaway), a 16 year old teen growing up in a poor suburb in southern Australia.  Jamie and his brothers are victimized and molested by a pervert.  When their mother Elizabeth (Louise Harris) finds out, she attacks the pedophile and reaches out to the authorities.  The predator is released within a day on bail and the family is forced to look across the street every day as their rapist sits on his porch.

John Bunting (Daniel Henshall) begins dating Elizabeth and subsequently rescues the family.   He and his odd assortment of lowlife friends actually take on the pedophile—vandalizing his property and harassing him until he moves.  Bunting becomes a father figure to Jamie and his brothers.  He cooks, takes them out, and seems to be a stabilizing force.  However, Bunting has a vicious, vigilante side.  He is enraged by the injustice of the world and seeks to eradicate pedophiles and other evil from his neighborhood.  He and his accomplices brutally torture and then kill their targets as part of their plan for justice. 

Jamie, abused and vulnerable, is seduced by Bunting’s power.  He feels protected by Bunting.  But as he falls deeper and deeper into Bunting’s world, he trades one hell for another.

The Snowtown Murders is extremely difficult to watch.  The setting, the cinematography—everything is necessarily stark and ugly to depict the brutality of the subject matter.  You cannot help but be horrified by the events as they unfold, and the fact that the film is based on a true story is even more unsettling.  Pittaway is phenomenal as Jamie.  He has the empty look of someone who has led such a tortured existence that he is numb to abuse and has little fight within him.  The film adeptly portrays his evolution from victim to hopeful to terrified to resigned.

I honestly am torn on a rating for this film.  It is not a movie that I will watch again.  Ever.  At the same time, I believe that director Justin Kurzel accomplished his goal by depicting the raw, unedited tale of serial killers.  It is not glamorous; it is not clever; it is not pretty.  It is unflinchingly brutal.  With that said, I have to give this a 0.06% rating because I honestly wish I had a keg of beer to get me through this film, and you will too.