Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Justin Kurzel|
|Produced by||Anna McLeish
|Screenplay by||Shaun Grant|
|Story by||Shaun Grant
|Based on||Killing for Pleasure
by Debi Marshall and The Snowtown Murders
by Andrew McGarry
|Music by||Jed Kurzel|
|Editing by||Veronika Jenet|
|Distributed by||Madman Films|
|Running time||120 minutes|
|Box office||$8,452 (US)|
In the poor Adelaide suburb of Salisbury North, 16-year-old Jamie lives with his distressed mother, Elizabeth Harvey, and his brothers — including Troy, who rapes Jamie. One day, his mother's boyfriend takes indecent photographs of the boys. When the police are reluctant to intervene, Elizabeth is contacted by Barry, a gay man who introduces her to John. John, who despises paedophiles and homosexuals, deals with the boyfriend by continually harassing him until he leaves town. John begins to assume the role of Jamie's father figure.
Jamie finds himself slowly drawn into John's homophobic and violent tendencies, unable to escape because of his charismatic and intimidating dominance. On one occasion, he has Jamie shoot his dog. John meanwhile influences the rest of the neighborhood with his extremely homophobic views, and separates Barry from his younger boyfriend Robert. Only Troy seems to dislike John. Barry soon disappears, leaving behind only a tape saying that he is going to Queensland.
Shortly afterward, Jamie visits his drug-addicted best friend Gavin with John, who takes a dislike to Gavin. Later one night John and Robert take Jamie into his garden shed and show him the bodies of Barry and Gavin. Distressed, Jamie lashes out at John but is powerless to resist, and remains under his influence. When John learns that Jamie has been abused by Troy, he and Robert torture Troy. Jamie later kills the brutalized Troy in an act of mercy. Now desensitized, Jamie assists John in carrying out several murders. John and his team store the bodies in the vault of an abandoned bank in the town of Snowtown.
Jamie is persuaded by John to lure his half-brother Dave to the bank building, ostensibly to look at a computer for sale. Jamie drives with him to the town, vaguely conscious of what he is doing, and leads Dave into the building, where he is met by John and Robert. Unaware of what is going on, Dave watches Jamie shut the door of the bank.
Against a black screen, captions reveal that South Australian Police discovered the remains of eight people stored in barrels in the bank vault of Snowtown on 20 May 1999, and the following day John Bunting and Robert Wagner were arrested.
- Daniel Henshall as John Bunting
- Lucas Pittaway as James Vlassakis
- Aaron Viergever as Robert Wagner
- David Walker as Mark Haydon
- Louise Harris as Elizabeth Harvey
- Keiran Schwerdt as Thomas Trevilyan
- Bob Adriaens as Gavin
- Frank Cwiertniak as Jeffrey
- Matthew Howard as Nicholas
- Marcus Howard as Alex
- Anthony Groves as Troy
- Richard Green as Barry
Screen Australia announced in March 2010 that it would be funding the film and Film Victoria provided $245,000. The film was produced by Warp Films Australia, a collaboration between Warp Films and distributor Madman Entertainment.
Apart from Henshall and Greene, the actors were locals with no acting experience that Kurzel had found in the area where the murders occurred, with most from Davoren Park. Kurzel himself grew up in the area and felt that using locals would move the film from being a one dimensional horror show to a tragic human story showing what happens when people are disadvantaged. Davoren Park is considered one of the most violent and dysfunctional suburbs in Australia and a place where emergency vehicles fear to go without a police escort. According to Kurzel, far from the "wow, I'm going to be a movie star" attitude that he had expected, he had some difficulty convincing them to take part.
The film premiered at the 2011 Adelaide Film Festival and won the festival's "Audience Award", and was selected as one of seven films from around the world that were shown at International Critics' Week competitions that ran in parallel with the 2011 Cannes Film Festival. At Cannes, the film was awarded with a Special Mention.
Snowtown received positive reviews. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes lists an 86% approval rating and sums up the film as, "It's a bleak and brutal endurance test, but for viewers with the strength and patience to make it to the end, Snowtown will prove an uncommonly powerful viewing experience."
Peter Bradshaw reviewed the film for The Guardian and gave it four stars out of five, saying that Snowtown "is a well made but gruesome and often unwatchably violent film." He concluded by stating that it reminded him of 10 Rillington Place and that while films "like David Fincher's Zodiac, or Jaime Rosales's The Hours of the Day, or Shōhei Imamura's Vengeance Is Mine demystified the killer's macabre criminal career in their various ways; what Snowtown does is create a social-realist horror story showing the killer as parodic paterfamilias."
Fiona Williams of SBS awarded the film three-and-a-half stars out of five, commenting that director Kurzel "sidesteps the gore – mostly – to focus instead on the circumstances that enabled the atrocities to occur...It’s a gripping, discomforting watch."
Channel Nine entertainment reporter Richard Wilkins, gave the film a rating of zero stars, stating "This is as close to a snuff movie as I ever want to see… I don't care if it's rooted in truth or not, it's appalling. I've seen it so you don't have to." This review was criticised by culture zine Pedestrian TV and was dismissed by Kurzel and actress Louise Harris.
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- Snowtown at Box Office Mojo Retrieved 20 July 2013
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- Reed, Becky (16 November 2011). "Interview: Snowtown's Justin Kurzel & Lucas Pittaway". This Is Fake DIY. Retrieved 13 December 2011.
- "Screen Australia funding approvals announced". Screen Australia. 22 March 2010. Retrieved 19 April 2011.
- "Vic govt to fund Snowtown murders film". The Sydney Morning Herald. 3 March 2010. Retrieved 13 December 2011.
- Harris, Samela (12 December 2011). "Snowtown a triumph for Aussie movie making". The Advertiser. Retrieved 13 December 2011.
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- David Penberthy Northern Exposure The Sunday Mail 26 August 2012 pp. 46–51
- "50e Selection de la demaine de a critique – 2011". French Syndicate of Cinema Critics. Retrieved 19 April 2011.
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- Snowtown at Rotten Tomatoes
- Bradshaw, Peter (17 November 2011). "Snowtown – review". The Guardian. Retrieved 13 December 2011.
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- "Richard Wilkins slams Snowtown". Pedestrian TV. 20 May 2011. Retrieved 26 May 2013.
- "Richard Wilkins's review a giggle to Snowtown director Justin Kurzel". Daily Telegraph. 20 June 2011. Retrieved 26 May 2013.
- "Wilkins' opinion matters not as Snowtown sweeps awards". Daily Telegraph. 2 February 2012. Retrieved 26 May 2013.
- "'Snowtown's Louise Harris slams "w**ker" critic Richard Wilkins". Digital Spy. 3 February 2012. Retrieved 26 May 2013.