SNOWTOWN (2011) Reviews and overview

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Snowtown is a 2011 Australian film about the Snowtown murders directed by Justin Kurzel and written by Shaun Grant. The movie stars Daniel Henshall, Lucas Pittaway and Louise Harris.


Sixteen-year-old Jamie (Lucas Pittaway) longs for an escape from the violence that surrounds him in Adelaide’s northern suburbs. His salvation arrives in the form of John (Daniel Henshall), a charismatic man who unexpectedly comes to his aid.

However, as events occur around him, including the disappearance of several people, Jamie begins to harbour deep suspicions about John and his motivations. When the truth is finally revealed, Jamie’s hopes of happiness are threatened by both his loyalty for, and fear of, his father figure – John Bunting, Australia’s most notorious serial killer…


In 1999, Snowtown became notorious as the location where the remains of eight bodies were found in barrels of acid stored in a disused bank vault. The Snowtown murders or Bodies in Barrels murders, as they came to be known, occurred in several locations in South Australia between August 1992 and May 1999.

The bodies were held at a series of locations around Adelaide for some time, and were moved to Snowtown in early 1999, a few months before their discovery. Only one victim was killed in Snowtown and none of the victims or the perpetrators were local to the town. Four people led by John Justin Bunting were convicted of murder or assisting the murders.


Apart from Daniel Henshall and Richard Greene, all the actors were locals with no acting experience that Kurzel had found in the area where the events of the movie actually 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.


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“Terrific performances, especially from the menacing, lazily charismatic Henshall, and debut director Kurzel’s expressionist storytelling make for an Aussie film well worth hunting down. A tough but seriously rewarding watch.” Kim Newman, Empire

“Kurzel’s ability to create this intense atmosphere is undeniable and as a filmmaker shows great promise. The performances too, are outstanding. Henshall is chilling as the heartless killer, whose cruelty is unnerving. Pittaway makes an impression as the traumatised young Jamie, who gets sucked in by Bunting for the most part because his moral compass is simply not strong enough to walk away.” Louise Keller, Urban Cinefile

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