RATING: MA 15+
RELEASE DATE: May 19
Snowtown will be one of the most disturbing movies to hit Australian screens this year. However it’s not the murderous images that are likely to have the most effect. The film’s real impact comes from the fact that this is a true story, demonstrating real evil is never really that far away.
The cache of bodies discovered in the vault of a disused bank in the South Australian town of Snowtown ranks as one of the grisliest finds in Australian criminal history. Snowtown the movie aims to pick out the human story behind this awful crime. Lucas Pittaway plays 16-year-old Jamie, a lonely boy who finds a new friend in the charismatic John Bunting. But Jamie’s admiration turns to dread as his new found father-figure beings to exhibit those characteristics that would later mark him as Australia’s most notorious serial killer.
Snowtown asks the question, ‘Does evil really have a face that can be recognized?’ Daniel Henshall presents a disturbing performance as Bunting, a man whose care for the wounded Jamie becomes a pretext for the most profoundly disturbing crimes. Possibly the worst of all is the way he cajoles and coerces the boy into taking part in his horrible acts of self-styled ‘retribution’. “It’s not mean if you kill someone who deserves it. It’s an Australian tradition,” he tells his enraptured followers. “What about ANZAC day? They killed those guys because they deserved it. What’s the difference between them and me? Where’s my parade?” But Bunting is as deluded as anyone who thinks that just because they can point to someone worse than themselves, they’re justified in acting any way they please.
This review is more warning than recommendation. A fellow writer described Snowtown to me as confronting. I think traumatizing would be more accurate. Nevertheless it is likely to attract significant attention from fans of Australian cinema who seem to feel that distressing footage equates to cinematic bravery. But however clearly Snowtown presents the problem of evil, it has little hope and no answers to offer. The best thing that can be said is that it leaves a Christian hoping in the sort of justice only and all-knowing God could provide.