Reviews by Tyson: Snowtown (2011)

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.

Snowtown is an Australian film based on the true story of ‘The Snowtown Murders’, also known as the ’Bodies in Barrels’ murders, where 11 people in South Australia were murdered between August 1992 and May 1999. The crimes were uncovered when the remains of eight victims were found in barrels of acid located in a rented former bank building in Snowtown on 20 May 1999.

Living in the United Kingdom I was unfamiliar with the murders, but as a big fan of true stories I thought I would check this out. What I saw was a horrifying film and something which really shows how little some people value the human life.

The film starts by introducing us to the lead character, a young boy named Jamie. He lives a dull and uneventful life, in which his distressed mother Elizabeth looks after him and his younger brothers, and he lacks a father figure. One day his mother’s boyfriend takes indecent photographs of the boys – which we are shown from the top up but this scene is beyond creepy – and since the police are reluctant to intervene, Elizabeth is contacted by Barry, a gay man who introduces her to John.

John despises paedophiles and homosexuals, so he helps Jamie’s family out and deals with the boyfriend by continually harassing him until he is forced to leave the town, making John seem like a hero in the process and ultimately he assumes the role of Jamie’s father figure.

As the film develops and Jamie befriends John, he is slowly drawn into his homophobic and violent tendencies, and soon realises that he is within John’s control, unable to escape because of his charismatic and intimidating dominance. This is when the focus of the film shifts, from a slow burning start where the boys are meeting a new father-like figure to the realisation that John is out of control and Jamie is taken along for the ride. He gets to see the real John and what he is capable of, and towards the end of the film things get a lot more brutal. Whilst some action is implied or happening off camera, we do see some pretty gruesome torture scenes and an awful rape scene. Jamie is made to be a participant in some of the crimes and a couple of scenes involving one of Jamie’s brothers are particularly horrifying to sit through.

Whilst being hard to watch, Snowtown also made it nearly impossible to look away as I didn’t want to miss anything. The houses, sets, clothing, tv’s etc, it was perfect in it’s authenticity and made me feel like I was back in the 90′s. There was a real gritty look and feel to the experience, and like most true stories I’m sure some liberties were taken to fill in the gaps between the murders, Snowtown really was an impressive film and one I’m glad I managed to see. It’s tricky to recommend this to everyone, but for those that like true stories and can overlook some occasional blood and gore this is well worth checking out.

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