Topic: "Snowtown" review by Owen Ward [No Spoilers]
Synopsis lifted from IMDb
Based on true events, 16 year-old Jamie falls in with his mother's new boyfriend and his crowd of self-appointed neighborhood watchmen, a relationship that leads to a spree of torture and murder.
When I first opened up my Lovefilm account, I decided to look up some 'Top ___ Lists' in order to add more films to my rental list that I otherwise wouldn't have heard of. When I received 'Snowtown' in the post, I couldn't remember adding it - but it was probably in some sort of Top Films of 2011 list. Before watching a film, I can't help but check out the Wiki/IMDb pages. Sometimes this can be a pretty dumb idea because of spoilers and whatnot, but in this case it was a good move. I found plenty of people saying that the film left them confused about the events taking place and others saying it was best to read up on The Snowtown Murders before watching the film. I'd suggest you do too, the Wiki page should suffice.
So, onto the film itself. It's less of a conventional retelling of the events and more of a disjointed experience that tries to paint a picture of what living through this would be like. It's a pretty slow paced film and I think they could have knocked a good 10 - 15 minutes out of it to help with that. Although, I would argue that it is the film-makers intent to give it a sort of 'endurance test' feel - I just don't feel that approach works 100% for me. It took about 15 - 20 minutes to properly get started for me and it did drag slightly towards the middle.
"Snowtown" deals with some pretty disturbing elements, but the majority is not seen onscreen. This is no torture porn flick. The height of the horror comes from Daniel Henshall's fantastic portrayal of John Bunting. Speaking of the performances, they were on the whole pretty good. In addition to Henshalll, I thought another stand out performance came from Louise Harris playing the role of Elizabeth Harvey. Unfortunately, I felt that the weakest performance came from the lead - Lucas Pittaway who plays Jamie. Although it was most likely a directorial decision, Pittaway's performance seems to mostly consist of staring blankly. Some would say this is more naturalistic, but I dunno...I wasn't completely on-board with it. To be fair though, the film did mostly use non-actors - something which I wasn't aware of when I was watching the film. Perhaps if I watched it knowing that, I would have seen the performances in a whole other light.
Visually it's not outstanding, but it does the job. It has that girtty, almost verite-like style which heightens the realism of the picture which in turn heightens the drama and emphasises the horror. Whilst it did work for the most part, there were one or two moments where I wish they had just stabilised the camera a bit more or just had it locked off. There were also a few instances where slow/fast-motion was used that seemed a bit unnecessary.
Overall I felt "Snowtown" was a pretty solid film - especially seeing as it's director Justin Kurzel's first attempt at a feature. I wouldn't call it an enjoyable film as that would be a tad wrong, but it did keep me engaged. Would I buy it? Probably not, but if it was on TV I'd likely keep it on.