Wednesday, 28 March 2012


The Snowtown murders, or ‘Bodies in Barrels murders’ as the Australian media branded it, refers to the slaying of 11 people in South Australia between August 1992 and May 1999. The crimes were uncovered when human remains where discovered in barrels located in a disused bank vault in Snowtown, which is about an hours drive north of Adelaide, on May 20th 1999. It was not until early 2011 when a Judge lifted the last of the 250 suppression orders that film director Justin Kurzel was able was able to release his debut feature film Snowtown (2011) based on these incidents.
Daniel Henshall is convincing as John Bunting.

The gruesome story of the worst recorded case of serial killings in Australia unfolds through a father-son type relationship that builds up between John Bunting and the 16 year old Jamie Vlassakis (Lucas Pittaway) which began when Jamie’s mother Elizabeth asked Bunting to deal with a ‘filthy pervert’, a near neighbour who has been baby sitting her boys. Bunting, his friend Robert Wagner and the easily manipulated Jamie force the man from his home, in one scene we see John and Jamie dumping crushed heads and inners of kangaroos on the man’s doorstep! From what turns out to be relatively small beginning’s Bunting’s influence on both the family and the local community increases to a pitch were he can do anything he likes and still have their support and encouragement for his bigotry to deal with what they deem to be the triple attack on their neighbourhood from homosexuals, paedophiles and drug addicts.

The father-son relationship.

Shaun Grant’s screenplay brings to mind another remarkable Australian movie Animal Kingdom (2010), both films used the same cinematographer Adam Arkapaw who actually filmed at some of the murder locations. Except for the compelling Daniel Henshall, who plays Bunting superbly, the rest of the cast was made up from non-professionals drawn from the area where the story unfolded, even the director is a local. Its not until we are well into the film that we get the full impact of the killings when we see the horrendous and brutal torture and murder of Jamie’s older half brother Troy who has been repeatedly sexually assaulting his younger brother. This is without doubt the hardest scene to watch in fact it’s almost unwatchable
John Bunting the regular guy!!

Although all the victims had been cruelly tortured before being killed and it has been alleged that Bunting carried out the killings for his own personal pleasure, this is not torture porn, most of the violence is inferred. Its an highly intelligent look at a bleak downtrodden working class suburb, rife with crime and sexual abuse, a community that has been neglected by any kind of authority and is more than happy to except a strong charismatic leader who, to them at least, seemed to care. The stark telling of this brutal episode in recent Australian history is very hard viewing. This is probably one of the most sobering films your ever see, it certainly shows the backside of the Australian dream with its grim reality and soiled family life.

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