My main feeling as I walked away from the cinema where I saw Snowtown was a mixture of fear and disgust. As the gruesome torture sequences of Australia’s most notorious serial killer John Bunting played out, I considered how mentally tortured I felt, shielding my eyes from his sadistic pleasures, physically sickened by bloodlust and butchery. These are images that will never leave me.
The film follows 16-year-old Jamie, who lives in a run-down bungalow in a suburb of Adelaide with his mum and two younger brothers. When the Jamie and his brothers are photographed by a neighbourhood paedophile, his mum’s new boyfriend John steps into the fray to sort things out.
Although at first John’s intentions are to protect his family, his motives become increasingly blurred as he begins a killing rampage on gay/fat/disabled people he takes a disliking to.
A tougher watch than Animal Kingdom, many will find Snowtown extremely distressing, particularly the climactic killing of a man by repeated strangulation, where his body becomes a plaything taking the same beating as a mouse mauled by a cat for fun.
While the acting by Lucas Pittaway and Daniel Henshall is provoking and real, and the directing shows a skilful use of cutaways and aftershocks, the grim and numbing experience which is created overall is overwhelming and jumbles the narrative, making the murders seem random and relentless.
Difficult to stomach and difficult to appreciate, this Australian miserablist/ social-realist horror story left me feeling abused in way that Tyrannosaur/We Need to Talk About Kevin barely even touched on. How’s that for emotional impact?