Snowtown is set in the late 1990s, and begins with 16-year-old Jamie Vlassakis (Lucas Pittaway) living a very disatisfying home life. It’s bad enough that his parents are no longer together, but the man his Mum is seeing now is… well, on the surface he may appear to look after her kids, but while she’s out, he takes disturbing pictures of them in their underwear.
Before too long, she finds out what’s going on and reports him to the police. Knowing how to pull the wrong sort, she then meets Austrlia’s most notorious serial killer, John Bunting (Daniel Henshall), who helps the lads chase the paedophile out of town.
This is a brutal and an uncompromising look at life in a backward small town.
We see John turning Jamie into a shaven-headed homophobic bully, even encouraging him shoot John’s own dog as an attempt to make him grow some balls. John goes to to describe the potential torture of a paedophile as an ‘Australian tradition’, and relates it to Anzac Day, where they “applaud those who killed and tortured a bunch of men who deserved it.”
Daniel Henshall is incredibly chilling as John Bunting, and there’s stand-out performances from him and Lucas Pittaway as Jamie. It also has tinges of Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, as you might expect given the subject matter, but I can’t really go into detail without giving spoilers, other than some murders are more grisly than others because some are played more for what you *don’t* see than what you do…
Overall, this is a slow burner, but once it all comes together, this is certainly a film worth watching.
Presented in 16:9 (1.77:1), the picture has no problems and does have a gritty look to it, but that’s an intentional one to get across just what a grim place in which the film is set.
Audio-wise, the film is presented in DTS 5.1 HD Master Audio and there’s some Wonderful bass from time to time, but in addition, the dialogue’s audio is woeful. Everyone mumbles their words together, talk over each other, and without subtitles it’s impossible to follow a lot of what’s going on. And there are no subtitles on this release. If there’s any way you can watch this with subtitles, then do so, as when you can follow what’s going on, it is an exceptional piece of film-making.
The extras are as follows:
- Deleted Scenes with commentary (17:43): Three of them, and the commentary is not optional, which is an oddity.
There are several scenes included here, which are interesting to see in addition to the main film, even if they wouldn’t fit in the film as a whole.
3 deleted and extended scenes here, but nothing that demands to be put back in the film.
- Original casting footage (8:49): Footage of Daniel Henshall, Louise Harris (Jamie’s mother) and Lucas Pittaway. The first and last segments are worth a look.
- The Snowtown Crimes (5:03): Text information about the case played to slo-mo shots of residents of Snowtown and eerie music in the background, making for a very weird but engaging extra.
- Q&A (8:48): Kim Newman interviews Lucas Pittaway and director Justin Kurzel, with Justin having grown up near where the murders happened, and Lucas having grown up in the town itself. For the last two minutes, Lucas is replaced by composer Jed Kurzel.
- Trailer (1:59): A good introduction to the film.
The menu mixes some stills with the chilling incidental music playing over and over.
As described earlier, there are no subtitles which is inexcusable, especially since the dialogue isn’t at all clear. The chaptering is equally lacking with just 12 over the 120-minute running time.
Running time: 120 minutes
Distributor: Revolver Entertainment
Cat no: REVD2884
Date of release: March 19th 2012
Picture: 1080p High Definition
Sound: DTS 5.1 HD Master Audio
Widescreen: 1.78:1 (16:9)
Disc Format: BD50
Director: Justin Kurzel
Producers: Anna McLeish and Sarah Shaw
Screenplay: Shaun Grant (from a story by Shaun Grant & Justin Kurzel, based on the books “Killing for Pleasure” by Debi Marshall and “The Snowtown Murders” by Andrew McGarry)
Music: Jed Kurzel
Jamie Vlassakis: Lucas Pittaway
John Bunting: Daniel Henshall
Gavin: Bob Adriaens
Elizabeth Harvey: Louise Harris
Jeffrey: Frank Cwiertniak
Nicholas: Matthew Howard
Alex: Marcus Howard
Troy: Anthony Groves
Barry: Richard Green
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.