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Snowtown (2011)


Director: Justin Kurzel
Starring: Lucas Pittaway, Daniel Henshaw, Louise Harris, Aaron Viergever, Richard Green
Not rated, 119 minutes

SNOWTOWN is a harrowing portrait of the people surrounding Australia's most notorious serial killer. The film focuses on teenage Jamie, a young man living with his cancer-stricken mother and his two younger siblings in a low income housing community in Adelaide. His mother, Elizabeth (Louise Harris), is in a relationship with a neighbor who enjoys taking nude pictures Jamie and his brothers. Meanwhile, step brother Troy thinks nothing of wrestling Jamie to the ground and sodomizing him when the feeling moves him. It's a hopelessly bleak existence in a neighborhood teeming with sordid characters and broken souls.

Hope comes in the form of a charismatic neighbor named John Bunting (Daniel Henshaw).  John invites himself into the family's life and quickly becomes a sort-of boyfriend to Elizabeth, and a father figure to her sons. When John learns of the nude photos, he immediately devises a solution: psychological warfare. With Jamie's assistance, John chops up the corpses of a dozen kangaroos and and soaks them in five gallon buckets of blood. In broad daylight, John splatters the creep's house with gore, sending a very clear and terrifying message.  As Jamie becomes drawn into John's inner circle, he learns that John is not content with acts of psychological terror -- nor are pedophiles the only target of John's rage.

There's an oppressive atmosphere of dread and despair that hovers over SNOWTOWN, which perfectly compliments the unsettling subject matter. With the exception of one extremely graphic torture scene, the film doesn't wallow in the sordid details of the John Bunting story. Instead, director Justin Kurzel forces viewers to experience the feeling of pending doom that hovers over virtually every character in this movie. No one is safe in John Bunting's world; anyone can be tortured and killed at any moment. This feeling of unbearable tension is due in large part to Daniel Henshaw's astonishing turn as the psychopathic John Bunting. Affable working class bloke one minute, a snarling attack dog the next, Henshaw's Bunting pulsates with danger in every scene.

This is a movie that makes you see and feel things you don't want to see and feel. This isn't a pleasant movie, or one that you could call entertaining. It is, however, an incredibly well-made and profoundly disturbing look at a real-life monster and the people in his grip.  SNOWTOWN is one of the best true crime/serial killer films ever made, though it's one many will not be able to make it through.

4.5 out of 5

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