Wednesday, 23 August 2017


“Social justice cannot be attained by violence. Violence kills what it intends to create.” - Pope John Paul II 

Snowtown (2011) Docudrama - Directed by Justin Kurzel; starring Lucas Pittaway, Daniel Henshall, Louise Harris. – 7/10

This is a movie based on the infamous Snowtown Murders (also known as the “bodies-in-barrels murders”), which were a series of murders committed by John Bunting, Robert Wagner, and James Vlassakis between August 1992 and May 1999, in South Australia. A fourth person, Mark Haydon, was convicted for helping to dispose of the bodies. The trial was one of the longest and most publicised in Australian legal history.

Only one of the victims was killed in Snowtown itself, which is approximately 140 kilometres north of Adelaide, and none of the eleven victims, nor the perpetrators were from the town. Although motivation for the murders is unclear, the killers were led by Bunting to believe that the victims were paedophiles, homosexuals or “weak”. In at least some instances, the murders were preceded by torture, and efforts were made to appropriate victims’ Centrelink social security payments and bank funds.

Although initially the notoriety of the murders led to a short-term economic boost from tourists visiting Snowtown (, it created a lasting stigma, with authorities considering a change of the town’s name and identity.

The film centres on sixteen-year-old Jamie, who lives with his mother, Elizabeth, and his two younger brothers, Alex and Nicholas, in a housing trust home in Adelaide’s northern suburbs. Their home is but one of many cramped, dirty, badly maintained houses crammed together in clusters where the disenfranchised people are placed by a society that needs to have them out of sight and out of mind. Elizabeth’s current boyfriend abuses her three sons and she lashes out, and finds support in a group of people that have been affected by similar experiences.

Jamie longs for an escape from the violence and hopelessness that surrounds him and his salvation arrives in the form of John, a pleasant and approachable man who unexpectedly comes to his aid. As John spends more and more time with Jamie’s family, Elizabeth and her boys begin to experience a stability and sense of family that they have never known.

John moves from the role of Jamie’s protector to that of a mentor and father figure, indoctrinating Jamie into his world, a world brimming with bigotry, righteousness and malice. Like a son mimicking his father, Jamie soon begins to take on some of John’s traits and beliefs as he spends more and more time with him and his select group of like-minded friends. Disaster and tragedy then follows…

This is a bleak and horrifying film, containing shocking some scenes of violence and torture, but not as much as in the standard “gore and guts” horror flicks. It is a raw, confronting, and chilling movie, which relies on the psychological suspense and emotional journey of the characters for its shock effect. It is not a film for the faint-hearted, but unfortunately we live in dire times and crimes such as the ones depicted in the film (or worse!) are all too common nowadays. Watch it with trepidation, but preferably cuddling someone who loves you and you love very much.

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