Wednesday, August 29, 2012

George Bell reviews The Snowtown Murders

The Snowtown Murders is one of those movies that sticks with me for a day or two after viewing it.
I’m not sure if I would classify it as thriller or horror, but either way, it’s a horrendous true story about
a rash of killings that took place in Australia between 1992 and 1999. Four people were convicted of
murdering eleven victims, and the movie concerns itself with the beginning of the killing spree. If you’ve
seen The Girl Next Door (no, not the Elisha Cuthbert one), that’s the kind of experience you’re in for.

When the movie opens, Jamie, a 16-year-old boy, is molested by a neighbor. His mother, Elizabeth, finds
out about it and, naturally, she calls the police. For whatever reason, they don’t do much about it, so
soon enough, through a friend she finds someone to help deal with the problem. Unbeknownst to her,
that someone turns out to be John Bunting, a serial killer and torturer. He repeatedly gets away with
murder by forcing his victims to record messages talking about how they’re running away or leaving
their family, and he then plays those messages on the answering machines of whoever would suspect
foul play. Fun. His idea of “dealing” with the child molester is to bother him at all hours of the night by
revving his motorcycle in front of his door and painting the word “fag” all over his windows (because,
duh, being gay is equivalent to being a pedophile). Oh, yeah, he also gets Jamie to help throw kangaroo
guts and parts all over the guy’s porch, which I would probably deem over-the-top. Of course, the
molester quickly moves out after a few days of that, but by that point, Bunting has already inserted
himself into Elizabeth and Jamie’s lives. His presence may have only meant to serve as a solution to a
temporary problem, but he ends up leading everyone involved down a path of ruin.

The reason this one has stayed with me for so long is that it has a sort of detached nature. It seems to
be less concerned with ascribing motive to any of the characters than it is just showing events that took
place at a certain place and time. The storytelling is a tad unconventional; it doesn’t waste time explicitly
going over what the narrative is about. There’s also near-silence in a lot of scenes which gives the whole
thing a contemplative atmosphere. That, coupled with the haunting beauty of a lot of the shots, is used
to great effect, and even though the movie isn’t very gory (and after reading up on the real murders,
I’m actually glad about that), the ideas it put in my head as I was watching got its gruesome point across
quite adequately, thank you very much.

Burton slowly clues Jamie in on his psychopathic, murdering ways, and once the half-way mark hits,
Jamie has already been forced to participate in Burton’s sick obsession. The kid is obviously messed up
in the head and most likely schizophrenic, and Burton’s insanity doesn’t help anything. If you’re hoping
for a happy ending to be miracled up from somewhere, well…sorry. I mentioned The Girl Next Door,
and I’d recommend watching that alongside The Snowtown Murders if you’re looking for a double-bill
of depression. Neither movie is one I’ll watch often, but as singular experiences, they’re very powerful.
They both showcase a nasty part of the human condition, which is that some people go out of their way
to do egregious harm. Like I said, it’s not something I’ll be popping in every Christmas, but if you’re at all
moved by deranged behavior, give this one a shot. As for a rating, I’d definitely peg this as Good.


  1. I got here from Twitter... @GMReviews1 . I saw this movie a few months ago... Well when I say I saw it I actually mean I watched some of it, and I just had to turn it off because it was (as you say starting to depress me) and it seemed so real. I may go back and watch the remainder of the movie but if it brings me back to how I felt, I will turn it off again. I also don't remember how it came to my attention which is weird.

    1. They don't even show most of what the guy did to his victims. I looked all of that up, and I think it would have made the movie unwatchable for me if they lingered on that stuff. There are exceptions, but I have a lot more respect for movies that use emotionally charged situations to elicit fear/apprehension instead of just grossing you out. But I can see how some people would want a little more cheer in their movie watching. Thanks for checking the review out!