Snowtown Murders (2011)

Director: Justin Kurzel
Starring: Lucak Pittaway, Daniel Henshallm Lousie Harris, Frank Ćwiertniak, Anthony Groves .Australia. 1h 59m

This brutal Australian serial killer movie is a slightly overbearing,  a nearly unwatchable portrait of a gruesome man and a blighted community with his smug smile and ability to sweet talk a community into assisting his plot to torture and kill.

Justin Kurzel’s cold nightmarish story based on the timeline of killing of Australia’s most notorious serial killer focuses more on the town and folk surrounding him, in particular a young teenage boy forced into his grisly covert operations. The title reflects the wintry name of the south Australian Townsend in which all the murders were carried out. Kurzel’s camera hovers around the dated dinner tables and community halls sneaking a social eye over these events where a cunning jackal like predator twists and turns the perceptions of “innocent” folk to help him track and pin down people who he doesn’t believe should exit anymore.

The cold social lens is fixated on this gruesome and violent revelations surrounding a single mother and her three sons, and what beings as a mothers attempt to save her children from a potential pedophile turns into bloody murder and layers of cruel social pressure.

The murderer is not the centre of the movie, but while his smirking face is often lurking around every corner, it’s in fact Jamie (Pittaway) who’s a Aussie version of a young Heath Ledger. James and his two younger brothers are babysat by a neighbour to subject them to sexual molestation and the pattern of stomach churning events that follow erupts into a network of criminal hunting that’s so violent it collapses on itself.

Once Elizabeth (Harris) their dutiful mother comes to terms with what happened, she acts her own brand of retribution, she gives her kids a meal, strolls over the road and beats him in his own front yard! (go sista). Being afraid and alone, Liz is looking for love and falls into the honey trap case by John (Henshall) a slimy individual who turns up as a knight in shining armor, helping Liz remove the peado from across the road, encouraging her boys to write “Fag” on his walls and inciting Jamie to help splatter dismembered animal corpses over the front of his home, once he’s left the neighbourhood John becomes more vocal and sinister, a charismatic leader he holds the community together in a fight against pedophiles which turns incredibly ugly and dark as John’s criteria widens to encompass anyone who he just doesn’t like. Even those who are loyal and eagerly help John with clues and evidence of questionable locaks are soon targets for their own sexuality.

Having the perspective spin off a teenage boy is genius, it allows an innocent view of this disturbing case to cast over the details until they are thrown in the face of the viewer, as what Jamie’s beings to suspect is happening, is soon right in front of his face, writhing in a bloody bathtub, but what can the boy do?

The array of characters are colourful and very different to those normally seen in big movies, even more bizarre than Animal Kingdom (2010) and each one, and their bloody exit remains in the memory, possibly forever. There’s a big responsibility for movies based on real events to detail everything and capture the essence, this is often cocked up, leading to dismal portrayals to the fans favourite killers, but what Kurzel has majestically conjured up in and between the lines of Snowtown is possibly at times a touch more than what happened. From Johns corporal punishment, domestic abuse and animal cruelty and those all too many final phone messages that he constructed from his drying victims, it’s hard to watch and not be affected, this is the benchmark for serial killer films, this is what we need more of, a raw and honest stare into the void.

Rating: 8/10

Related: Coffin Rock (2009), Animal Kingdom (2010), Golden Glove (2019), Chicago Massacre : Richard Speck (2007)
Lists: A-Z Of Australian Cinema
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