Dir: Justin Kurzel
Starring: Daniel Henshall, Lucas Pittaway, Craig Coyne, Louise Harris and Richard Green.
I knew sooner or later a film based upon the ‘bodies in the barrels’ case would happen, and I wasn’t really on board with that idea.
The case of John Bunting and ‘his crew’ who killed people around them became a notorious case in my hometown of Adelaide. Truth be told the street where a lot of these events went down was one we passed many times and not all that far away from where we lived. It was a scary thought, and I remember when all of this came to light, and Adelaide no longer seemed like an innocent place. As details emerged of these killings, the more disturbing this entire case became.
I’ve read a lot about what happened, I’ve seen some documentaries (perhaps the most disturbing is Crime Investigation Australia’s episode), but nothing could quite prepare me for this film. That is not to say that it is the most disturbing and gory film I have seen, I really expected a film based around this to be a bad one, and exploitative of what happened.
Snowtown is a fantastic film, one that does not exploit the victims nor does it worship the killers. Instead if paints a realistic picture of a time and a place, and the people involved. It does not aim to explain the motivations behind the actions, but it shows you instead the environment these people were in, and without much hope how easy it is to get sucked into something.
Justin Kurzel took the script by Shaun Grant and really crafted a smart film, the research was there, and the respect was there. The film feels like at times a fly on the wall look into these people’s lives. The area that they live in, at the time was associated with high unemployment and poverty, it shows this really well. It doesn’t say ‘oh look this is a trashy area, no wonder this happened’ it rather aims to bring light into what it can be like living there, and how for some people they turn to do the wrong things.
The main characters here are John Bunting (Daniel Henshall) and Jamie Vlassakis (Lucas Pittaway), and how John plants himself into this area, and offers himself as a friend. He has a dominating personality, he’s charismatic, the perfect weapons to really grab a hold of people and do what he likes. Jamie comes from an abusive home (his older brother is seen sexually assaulting him), he is the submissive type, so it is almost a perfect fit with John. As the time rolls on, John’s influence is felt, and his crimes are shown in disturbing detail.
While this is a well-made and acted film, almost to the point of crazy realism, it is disturbing and not an easy watch. It is a story that needs to be told, and if you can brave it you need to see this.
This movie made me physically sick and emotional drained, and I cannot recommend it enough.
The movie ‘Snowtown’ presents this true crime story from the perspective of Jamie Vlassakis (played by Jamie Pittaway), a young man who became involved in Bunting’s activities only to become the key witness in the trail. This viewpoint allows the viewer to generate a degree of sympathy for this character in that you see just how charismatic Bunting was. We also have a slow introduction to the murders, building a sense of dread during the first acts of the movie as Bunting maneuvers Vlassakis into the place he wants him.
Television actor Daniel Henshall as John Bunting will go down in cinema history as one of the most convincing and terrifying psychopaths ever to lurk on our screens. From the very first moment we see him, he’s charming and charismatic while at the same time cold and guarded. His eyes are haunting – I hope for Henshall’s sake that this is part of the performance and not just how he looks because it looks as though his soul is dead. Without cheesy gimmicks or pantomime acting he is unbelievable scary. Bunting was diagnosed as a pure psychopath, and it comes across very convincingly here.
Whilst this movie is more than capable of carrying itself on these performances and the reality of the story, but first time feature director is not content to rest of his laurels. The direction is stunning, whether it’s sweeping landscapes or cramped kitchens Justin Kurzel creates amazing compositions that read deeply into the situations. The movie is told visually, with little reliance on dialogue or exposition – the way a good movie should be and something most studio directors couldn’t achieve. Expect ‘Snowtown’ to be in every Australian film textbook in their next edition.
There a only a few scenes of violence in this films, but those that occur are shocking and nauseating re-creations of horrific acts. Do not see this movie if you don’t think you can handle this – the violence is close up, brutal and the killers are deeply disturbing during these scenes. Seeing Bunting watch with interest as they loosen and tighten the noose on a victim, not allowing him to die, it is downright harrowing.
As difficult as it is to watch, ‘Snowtown’ is one of the must see movies of the year.
The Australian DVD
Audio/Video: The video is a 16:9 widescreen presentation. Picture quality is solid, the film looks a little grainy but feels intentional in giving it that realistic feel. Audio is presented with Dolby Digital 5.1. Sound is of top quality, you feel every little thing that happens in the film.
* Audio commentary with director Justin Kurzel – A fantastic commentary, Justin is insightful and reveals a lot about the film, how it was made, his approach, the case itself. A must listen!
* Deleted scenes with audio commentary – Interesting to see what was cut and why it was cut, personally I like the film the way it is but as I said it’s interesting to see what else was shot but not included.
* Interview with director Justin Kurzel, courtesy of SlowTV – A great sit down interview, Justin is a great talker and again its insightful and a good watch.
* Original casting footage – I really liked this, and it kind of shows why he chose the people he did.
* The Snowtown Crimes – A quick written run down of the crimes, a good read if you are unfamiliar with it.
* Justin Kurzel’s short films BLUE TONGUE, BELL and PULSE – Pretty cool short films, Justin is a very talented filmmaker.
* Stills Gallery
* Theatrical trailer
The extras here are phenomenal, worth watching all the way through.
Thanks to Ben from MadMan for his support.