Movie review: The Snowtown Murders

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From the March 29, 2012 edition

It’s rare that horror films provide real horror, as opposed to adrenaline-jogging scares. Most prefer a roller-coaster ride to something that might actually disturb.

“The Snowtown Murders” is the latter. It’s a grim, under-the-skin film that will probably end up with fewer people in the audience by the end.

Based on a true series of serial murders, it follows a young, troubled teen named Jamie (Lucas Pittaway) who finds a charismatic father figure in self-appointed vigilante John Bunting (Daniel Henshall).

“Snowtown” feels very much in the vein of the grimy 1986 film “Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer.” Its grim tone is almost as difficult as the punctuations of violence — be forewarned of scenes of rape and torture. This is not a date movie.

It’s the performances that make the film truly haunting. Pittaway — looking like a fresh-faced Heath Ledger — suffers through unimaginable things that give him vulnerability and make him easy to prey upon.

Henshall’s portrayal of “Australia’s worst serial killer” is searing. His kindness toward Jamie and his family are disarming, as joviality hides psychosis. Under the guise of punishing suspected pedophiles and homosexuals, his acts of domination and control are terrifying.

“Snowtown” is a tough movie to forget. Some may want to. You’re warned.