Generally favorable reviews - based on 13 Critics What's this?

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Generally favorable reviews- based on 17 Ratings

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  • Starring: , ,
  • Summary: The film follows Elizabeth Harvey, a mother raising her three boys in a poor suburb. After her latest boyfriend displays pedophilic tendencies, she takes up with a new man, hoping for security but instead welcoming an even more vicious predator into her home. John Bunting is the moral compass of a self-appointed neighborhood watch who, fueled by cigarettes and beer, cast judgments on those living around them. Bunting enlists his crew in acts of sadistic vigilantism on those he considers deviants, and in the process takes Elizabeth's son Jamie under his wing. The Snowtown Murders is an uncompromising film focused on the relationship between vulnerable teenager and a father figure who is revealed to be the worst kind of bully. [IFC Films] Expand
Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 9 out of 13
  2. Negative: 2 out of 13
  1. Reviewed by: Jeannette Catsoulis
    Mar 1, 2012
    The Snowtown Murders reminds us that sometimes evil is immediately recognizable, but at other times it comes bearing bacon and beer.
  2. Reviewed by: Roger Ebert
    Mar 14, 2012
    The film is a chilling study of an evil, dominant personality and his victims. It works primarily through an astonishingly good performance by Daniel Henshall as Bunting.
  3. Reviewed by: Andrew O'Hehir
    Mar 2, 2012
    An impressive but exceptionally disturbing feature debut from Australian director Justin Kurzel that pushes the new wave of Aussie crime films up a notch.
  4. Reviewed by: Eric Kohn
    Feb 29, 2012
    The Snowtown Murders manages to become a compelling exercise that excels at making horrible acts look shockingly listless.
  5. Reviewed by: Noel Murray
    Feb 29, 2012
    The sense of enervation that creeps into the movie's second half is bothersome mainly because The Snowtown Murders is often brilliant in its depiction of the mundanity of evil.
  6. Reviewed by: Kenji Fujishima
    Feb 26, 2012
    Whatever one ends up thinking about The Snowtown Murders, it's difficult to deny that it's a deeply impressive work.
  7. Reviewed by: Karina Longworth
    Feb 28, 2012
    This slog adds up to nothing other than the shocking truism that average people will do horrible things primarily because someone tells them to.

See all 13 Critic Reviews

Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 7 out of 8
  2. Negative: 0 out of 8
  1. Aug 21, 2012
    Beautifully done. Really makes you feel like you were there, even though I live in USA. On the same par as the movie "Michael." Just wow! But not for the faint of heart (as a previous poster mentioned). If you have an interest in twisted (at least somewhat true) stories, then this is for you! Well acted. My only con is that I feel like I need to Wiki this story to find out the actual details, not that the movie deviated from them, just so I know how it went down according to Aussie historical accounts....BRAVO! Expand
  2. Mar 5, 2012
    Before I start I must warn anyone thinking of watching Snowtown that it is a visually/ mentally distressing film with disturbing imagery and a horrifying plot. When I viewed it in a room of 30 people or so, the room was down to 15-20 by the end of the film because of the films content. Not only is it not for the faint of heart, it's not for those with a strong heart. Even if you can watch the worst horror films without even as much as a gasp, trust me, you still aren't prepared for Snowtown. That being said Snowtown is a beautifully directed, true story based around Australian serial killer John Bunting (Daniel Henshall) and his systematic corruption of a teenager (Lucas Pittaway) into his gang of murderers. The story is dark but wonderfully written with every character being brilliantly thought out and drawn thanks to a great script by Shaun Grant. The most shocking part of Snowtown is the fact it never for a moment feels like a movie. It feels like you are following real people from Pittaway's Jamie, a lighthearted youngster dragged into John's hateful business thanks to manipulation by his mother Elizabeth (Louise Harris), his brother and John, his mother's new boyfriend. Daniel Henshall gives the performance of a lifetime as Bunting bringing to life a despicable character who not only affected a family but a whole community. Snowtown ensures a feel of unease for the entire run by setting up characters only to turn them on his head with John entering as a kind protector but gradually revealing the darkness within. The film makes sure not to make its characters come across as sociopathic, in fact, it emphasises the characters plethora of feelings and emotions. For instance in one scene John witnesses someone else carry out his kill and the look of shock and joy on his face is truly terrifying. The absolute delight displaces any idea that these characters are mentally ill. As Jamie falls deeper and deeper into the rabbit hole, Johnâ Expand
  3. Jun 25, 2013
    Justin Kruzel's remarkable feature debut takes a visceral look at the true story of Australia's worst serial killer, and what the media has dubbed, "the bodies in the barrels" murders. What it reveals is truly horrifying, and equally how mundane it is to those involved. Kurzel's film will haunt and disturb you long after it's over and given the subject matter, maybe that's how it should be.

    The film follows Elizabeth Harvey (Louise Harris), a mother raising her three boys in a housing trust home in Adelaide's northern suburbs. After her latest boyfriend displays pedophilic tendencies, she takes up with a new man, hoping for security--but instead welcomes an even more vicious predator into her home. John Bunting (Daniel Henshall) appears at the kitchen table one morning, and seemingly assigns himself the role of father in the family. He starts preparing meals, instilling values, and presenting on the surface a fine father figure for the three boys.

    John's friendly demeanor hides a coldness that is unfathomable. It slowly reveals itself at impromptu "neighborhood watch" meetings at the dinner table, where John holds court and proselytizes about the other supposed molesters, perverts, and undesirables in the town. It becomes clear that he wants to rid the village of the people he views as objectionable, and he doesn't find much argument from his neighbors. Soon, talk turns to action. Some neighbors turn a blind eye to his actions, or even go as far as to assist in the crimes themselves. Jamie's involvement goes even further, and turning to the police is never really an option for anyone.

    Bunting enlists his crew in acts of sadistic vigilantism on those he considers deviants, and in the process takes Elizabeth's son Jamie (Lucas Pittaway), under his wing. "The Snowtown Murders" is an uncompromising film, which focuses on the relationship between vulnerable teenager and a father figure--who is revealed to be the worst kind of monster. It is the 'relationship' between John and Jaime that is the centerpiece of "The Snowtown Murders"-- the mentor-protégé pairing is in a helpless way, inevitable, because of how easily John manipulates others. Abused and neglected for so long, Jaime can't help but be swayed by anything resembling a father figure, and John's overtures of trying to "toughen up" the boy are a transparent ruse to mold him into an accomplice and disciple.

    The combination of Adam Arkapaw's voyeuristic cinematography, the decision to shoot the film in the actual "Snowtown," and a cast of almost entirely non-professional actors, allows the film a unique ability to convey such a devastating, and yet convincing reality. The film generates most of its tension from the uneasiness from its placement of viewpoint, and in terms of violence, what to show, and what to cut away from. "The Snowtown Murders" is distressing and highly disturbing, one of the more difficult films to watch about psychopaths. There are very difficult scenes to sit through. There is no way to understand John Bunting. He is quite simply evil.
  4. May 23, 2013
    A disturbing depiction of Australia's most notorious killer brilliantly portrayed by Daniel Henshall. On the surface he seems friendly, with his calm approach and his seemingly genuine smile on his face. But don't be fooled; he is the face of evil. The soundtrack is eerie and adds and extra chill factor to this artfully directed film. Expand
  5. Dec 15, 2012
    Snowtown is one of those films that is extremely difficult to watch. However,although some of the imagery is very unpleasant it isn't as overly graphic as it could have been. The tone of the film is the unsettling presence. Aided by stark cinematography and matter of fact editing, director Justin Kurzel could not have done a better job in setting the scene. Adapted from real events that are depicted in two books, one of which 'The Bodies in the Barrels Murders' I have read, the visuals here are actually nowhere near as graphic as the prose. Daniel Henshall is a terrifying presence and gives an all too believable performance as the unflinchingly sadistic John Bunting whose all encompassing control is fatal. Whilst I do feel that this is a very important film, and there is no denying its power and effect, I have to say that it is not one that I will ever watch again. Every minute of the running time I felt trepidation and stress about what was to come. Having read the book and the reviews for the film I knew my unease was not unfounded. A film to admire and respect enormously, but no one can say this enjoyable. Good yes, but enjoyable never. Expand
  6. Jun 14, 2013
    As challenging and uncomfortable to watch as dramatised events get. Technically astounding but completely fixates on the most disturbing aspects of life; the first hour alone submits the viewer to sexual abuse, sodomy, murder, and the killing of animals. Not for the faint of heart. Expand
  7. Mar 4, 2012
    On the face of things, it is extremely difficult to find fault with Snowtown - artistically and technically speaking, it is flawless. Brilliantly-filmed and beautifully acted, particularly by the two central actors, Daniel Henshall playing a charismatic and utterly terrifying John Bunting, and Lucas Pittaway playing the withdrawn, vulnerable and emotionally unstable young man James Vlassakis, who is gradually corrupted by Bunting's influence, until he actively participates in the brutal series of murders himself. Both Henshall and Pittaway are simply spellbinding. For me, I found the film a little too real. When filmmaking is like this, depicting such a recent and traumatic real-world event in such an unflinching and horrifying matter, it can be extremely difficult to watch. You feel restrained, forced to just sit and observe the nightmare unfold on screen (though, chillingly, you just can't shake the thought that what you are watching really did happen in a small, Australian town just over a decade ago). The extended scenes of brutality are almost unbearable, not necessarily because of the graphic detail shown (there is relatively little), but because of their intensity, the unrelenting human monstrosity on show, and their gruelling length - the feeling of unease builds to unbearable levels, but rather than giving the viewer a release, the scene just carries on, until you feel physically sick. Never is this better demonstrated than in the scene where Bunting and one of his associates are strangling one of their victims in a bathtub, and taking great pleasure out of prolonging the man's pain as long as possible. James witnesses what is taking place, and tries to leave, providing a welcome relief for the viewer as he exits the house, muffling the horrific sounds of the victim's struggle, but then, just as we think we've escaped, Bunting calls James back inside, and we are forced to witness the horror through to its end. I really did find the film too close-to-the-bone, and quite nauseating at times. I understand director Justin Kurzel and writer Shaun Grant's aim was to depict the Snowtown Murders honestly, realistically and without sympathy for the culprits, but the viewing experience they put their audience through is nothing short of torture. It's beyond unpleasant to watch, and the whole film, and what it hopes to achieve, quite frankly feels a bit nasty. Despite its undeniably brave depictions of a real-life series of murders, its striking cinematography, memorable performances and a clever and sinister "monstrous family" dynamic between Bunting and his disciples, Snowtown is not a film I could ever watch again. I like to keep a little more distance between myself and a killer, and being allowed inside the dark recesses of Bunting's mind and watching him influence so many innocents with his natural charisma, and gradually corrupting them to their very core is just too upsetting. I commend Daniel Henshall for his captivating performance, but I honestly don't know how he can sleep at night, having journeyed so far into the state of mind of one of the most depraved and evil men in Australian history. Snowtown made me feel ill throughout its mercilessly long run-time, and it still makes me feel nauseous while I wrote this review. I'm not sure a film should ever have an effect like that on a viewer. I will never forget the film, but I almost wish I could. Expand

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