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Film Review: Snowtown (2011)

18 May

Jennifer Walsh reviews potentially bogan-horror (‘Borror’) classic Snowtown

There's no town like Snowtown

Justin Kruzel’s remarkable feature debut takes a very visceral look into what the media dubbed, ‘the bodies in the barrels’ murders. What it reveals is as equally horrifying as it is heartbreakingly mundane.

Being promised a film based on the true story behind an infamous string of murders that took place on the outskirts of Adelaide in the 90s, audiences can be forgiven for expecting a slasher horror akin to the gratuitously violent Wolf Creek. Or at least an appearance by Ben Mendelson. Inevitably, parallels will be drawn to Animal Kingdom: Snowtown similarly employs the perspective of a listless, almost mute teenager, as the guide who takes the audience into the kitchens and living rooms where killers are welcome.

However, the combination of  Adam Arkapaw’s voyeuristic cinematography, the decision to actually shoot in Snowtown and a cast of almost entirely non-professional actors, make Snowtown unique in its ability to convey such a convincing reality. The film generates most of its tension from the uneasy placement of viewpoint and the heedful consideration – in terms of violence – of what to show and what to cut away from.


As the main character, Jamie, slowly accepts and eventually becomes complicit with serial killer John Bunting’s savagery, the camera departs from a documentary style of coverage and lingers more and more on Jamie. This means that by the time the film reaches it’s climax the audience is placed in an awfully intimate and unsettling position with dismal hope for any release.  To offer any more than that would be an injustice to the real victims of these most brutal crimes.

The film does feel long and confusing at times. There is little divulging dialogue and characters so regularly appear out of nowhere or go off the radar without note that it can occasionally be difficult to distinguish exactly what is happening.

Rather than give an account of exact events, the film plays out more like a nightmare; time and events emanate across an ashen landscape of disgraced yards and far off, desolate and seemingly endless dirt roads.


This is a carefully told, cautionary tale, that offers some insight into how such an atrocity can occur. But as to why? Well, there is only so much we can ever really know.

Snowtown will is released in Australian cinemas today, 19 May 2011. It was written by Shaun Grant.