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Stars: Lucas Pittaway, Daniel Henshall, Louise Harris, Anthony Groves, David Walker, Aaron Viergever, Richard Green, Beau Gosling, Frank Cwertniak, Aasta Brown

Director: Justin Kurzel

Justin Kurzel’s disturbing, difficult-to-watch but magnificently powerful in its impact fact-based drama arrives garlanded with festival-biassed praise. And happily, while rather too often festival ‘accolades’ tend to celebrate attendance at the festival rather than true artistic/dramatic value, Snowtown definitely deserves all the positive eulogies showered up it.

The title refers to a grim suburb north of Adelaide that, unlike the regulation Bondi Beach and wide-open-spaces of Australia portrayed in so many movies from Down Under, resembles a backwoods community in a Depression-era rural town in the American South. There 16-year-old Pittaway (in a powerful characterisation) lives with his mother and two younger brothers. Pittaway longs to escape and sees potential salvation when charismatic Henshall enters the family’s life. The youngster and the ‘intruder’ bond, and Pittaway is sucked into a terrifying life of a brutal killer and his accomplices. Henshall is no father figure but rather portraying – and all too credibly - Australia’s most notorious serial slayer John Bunting.

Kurzel’s unpretentious but vividly to the point near documentary-style direction creates a truly terrifying horror movie made all the more shocking and uncomfortable to watch for being based on fact rather than fiction. Performances are all spot on, with unfamiliar faces adding uncomfortable verisimilitude. And, possibly its most telling asset, Snowtown is so impressive and riveting in every aspect that a star-led American remake seems highly unlikely. (Mind you, the same was said about The Vanishing whose Hollywood remake should have been interred rather than released).

Alan Frank

Australia 2011. UK Distributor: Revolver Entertainment. Colour by Atlab.
120 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 18.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 2, Violence/Horror 3, Drugs 2, Swearing 3.

Review date: 20 Nov 2011