‘Snowtown’ Review

Director: Justin Kurzel

Starring: Daniel Henshell, Lucas Pittaway

Plot: Based on the shocking crimes perpetrated by John Bunting and a group of young adults he manipulated into helping him in South Australia during the 1990’s. The discovery of the murders shocked and captivated the nation. This film provides the first insight into the mind of the killers.


This movie made me physically sick and emotional drained, and I cannot recommend it enough.

For those not familiar with this dark spot in Australian history, in the late 1990’s police in South Australia started to find links between several missing persons cases which lead them a grisly find. In a bank vault in small town called Snowtown were several semi-dissolved corpses stuffed into barrels along with implements of torture. Arrests quickly followed and courts found that among the conspirators one man, John Bunting, had manipulated the others into getting involved in his evil activities.

The movie ‘Snowtown’ shows events from the perspective of Jamie Vlassakis (played by Jamie Pittaway), a young man who became involved in Bunting’s activities only to become the key witness in the trail. This viewpoint allows the viewer to generate a degree of sympathy for this character in that you see just how charismatic Bunting was. We also have a slow introduction to the murders, building a sense of dread during the first acts of the movie as Bunting manoeuvres Vlassakis into the place he wants him.

Television actor Daniel Henshall as John Bunting will go down in cinema history as one of the most convincing and terrifying psychopaths ever to lurk on our screens. From the very first moment we see him, he’s charming and charismatic while at the same time cold and guarded. His eyes are haunting – I hope for Henshall’s sake that this is part of the performance and not just how he looks because it looks as though his soul is dead. Without cheesy gimmicks or pantomime acting he is unbelievable scary. Bunting was diagnosed as a pure psychopath, and it comes across very convincingly here.

Part of impact of the of the movie and the characters come from the producers managing to get the suppression orders on the details of the case lifted, gaining insight into how these people lived their lives and interacted. There’s no assuming that events are hypothetical and there’s no telling yourself that it’s just a movie.

Whilst this movie is more than capable of carrying itself on these performances and the reality of the story, but first time feature director is not content to rest of his laurels. The direction is stunning, whether it’s sweeping landscapes or cramped kitchens Justin Kurzel creates amazing compositions that read deeply into the situations. The movie is told visually, with little reliance on dialogue or exposition – the way a good movie should be and something most studio directors couldn’t achieve. Expect ‘Snowtown’ to be in every Australian film textbook in their next edition.

There a only a few scenes of violence in this films, but those that occur are shocking and nauseating re-creations of horrific acts. Do not see this movie if you don’t think you can handle this – the violence is close up, brutal and the killers are deeply disturbing during these scenes. Seeing Bunting watch with interest as they loosen and tighten the noose on a victim, not allowing him to die, it is downright harrowing.

As difficult as it is to watch, ‘Snowtown’ is one of the must see movies of the year.

NINE outta TEN