Watched Mar 21, 2012
Adam Cook’s review:
The devil makes work for idle hands. It is an often said idiom and one most accurately represented in Snowtown, a film about one of Australia’s most notorious serial killers. The Adelaide suburb of Snowtown is grey, poverty stricken and unremittingly depressing. The disenfranchised are unable to escape their situation and end up idly wallowing in their misfortune. It is in this environment that a charismatic figure like John Bunting can worm his way into a family and community manipulating and infecting it with his twisted world view. The serial killer movie so often wants to paint the murderer as somebody so broadly psychotic and unable to function in society that it creates a safe distancing effect between them and the audience. Snowtown makes Bunting frighteningly believable so much so that it can be quite an uncomfortable experience for the viewer.
The film is deliberately paced, the first hour sets the scene, the relationships and the circumstances that would lead to Bunting being able to get disenfranchised youths to commit unspeakable acts. Every frame drips with a sense of foreboding dread helped by the drone-like and discordant score by Jed Kurzel and the cold cinematography from Animal Kingdom cinematographer, Adam Arkapaw. The first hour is slow, some may even say uneventful, but the character moments and even rhythm of the film is all important for the final hour to have the potency it does. Lucas Pittaway in the lead role is a blank canvas. It could be seen as a flat performance but his character is detached from the world around him that the distant approach is perfectly suited to the material whilst Daniel Henshall is a revelation as ringleader Bunting. He is charming, chilling and utterly unpredictable.
Surprisingly much of the violence is kept off screen. Leaving it up to the audience to piece it together in their mind makes it far more brutal and unsettling than if we witnessed every murder. However, when violence does appear on screen it is as shocking and repugnant as you’d expect. Snowtown is not the sort of film you will watch repeatedly but nor should it be, it is a one time only experience and utterly unforgettable.