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DVD: Snowtown | reviews, news & interviews

DVD: Snowtown

DVD: Snowtown

Troubling account of Australian serial killer John Bunting

‘Snowtown’: Daniel Henshall’s eerie portrayal of the charismatic but revolting John Bunting

John Bunting is currently serving 11 life sentences. He was Australia’s serial killer. A murderous manipulator masquerading as a vigilante, he brought young people, their family members and a disenfranchised suburban community into his madness. Snowtown dramatises these deeply distressing events.

Snowtown DVDProduced by Warp Films - also behind the challenging Tyrannosaur - Snowtown slots into a lineage with the fictive Funny Games and Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer and the fact-based Bundy. Like Ted Bundy, Bunting was a charmer. He wheedled his way into a fractured household on the edges of Adelaide, a setting where occupied houses are scarred with graffiti, detritus litters front and back yards and kids are pushed around in shopping carts for fun. A paedophile across the road has been preying on this particular family, so Bunting sets out to deal with this man, who's out on bail. Hacked up pieces of kangaroo are dumped on his porch. The torture Bunting inflicts on one of his victims is unwatchable.

First-time feature director Justin Kurzel focuses on the relationship between Bunting (a mesmerising, eerily controlled Daniel Henshall) and impressionable teenager Jamie (Lucas Pittaway). Their interaction is the film’s spine. Kurzel has previously worked in theatre and ad direction. Although assured, the choice of subject and the film’s unflinching tone mean his filmic calling card is the equivalent of debuting with an attention-getting scream.

The DVD extras include on onstage Q&A with Pittaway and Kurzel, deleted scenes, casting footage and a short, scrolling summary of the Bunting case – none should be watched before the film, as they lessen its impact. A more significant drawback is that Snowtown’s stylisation makes it feel like an exercise. The wavering, hand held-style camerawork is overused. A slow-motion dance sequence is a too-obvious evocation of the twisted reality being passed through. But even this lack of nuance doesn’t undermine the growing atmosphere of dread. Snowtown deliberately, creepily wends towards its dreadful conclusion.

Watch ABC-TV's news coverage of the premier of Snowtown in Adelaide


First-time feature director Justin Kurzel 's filmic calling card is the equivalent of debuting with an attention-getting scream


Editor Rating: 
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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