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Introverted and impressionable teenager Jamie befriends and falls under the spell of his new father figure, John Bunting. His life is forever changed because Bunting has a sinister secret: he is a violent man who will go on to commit Australia's bodies-in-barrels murders.
For more about Snowtown and the Snowtown Blu-ray release, see Snowtown Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on November 18, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Starring: Lucas Pittaway, Daniel Henshall, Louise Harris
Director: Justin Kurzel
» See full cast & crew
Snowtown Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, November 18, 2012
Winner of six Australian Film Institute Awards, Justin Kurzel's "Snowtown" a.k.a "The Snowtown Murders' (2011) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of British distributors Revolver Entertainment. The supplemental features on the disc include original trailer for the film; audio commentary by director Justin Kurzel; original casting footage; deleted scenes with commentary by director Justin Kurzel; and more. In English, without optional English subtitles for the main feature. Region-Free.
Justin Kurzel's Snowtown may well be one of the most disturbing films ever made. It certainly is the most disturbing Australian film ever made. Since viewing it, I have been trying to decide whether this type of filmmaking is a good thing. And what can be accomplished with it. I don't know yet. What I do know is that Snowtown will not be easily forgotten. I think that just like Gaspar Noe's Irreversible it will be mentioned over and over again whenever people discuss films that made them feel extremely uncomfortable.
Snowtown chronicles a series of events that led to the arrest of John Bunting, Australia's most notorious serial killer. Between August 1992 and May 1999, Bunting killed 11 people in South Australia. These crimes were uncovered when barrels with human remains were found near Snowtown. But Bunting, as it became clear later on, did not act alone.
The overwhelming majority of the events are seen through the eyes of sixteen-year-old Jamie Vlassakis (Lucas Pittaway). When he is first introduced in the film, we see him living a quiet life together with his mother, Elizabeth (Louise Harris), and two brothers, Alex (Marcus Howard) and Nicholas (Matthew Howard). They don't have much but seem comfortable with the way things are.
One day, John (Daniel Henshall) permanently enters their lives. It is around the time Elizabeth discovers that a neighbor (Frank Cwertniak) she has asked to stay with her boys while she is away has taken some inappropriate pictures. Other deeds are also suggested. John and one of his buddies repeatedly confront the man and force him to leave the area. In the days that follow, other neighbors stop by to express their approval of John's actions.
While John spends time with Elizabeth, Jamie is repeatedly abused by his half-brother Troy (Anthony Groves). Once again, John intervenes and makes sure that order is restored – or at least his version of it. From this point on, however, things begin to spiral out of control and different people die.
The film is brilliantly scripted and the performances are truly phenomenal. Realism is essentially redefined here as there isn't a single sequence where it feels like the actors were aware that a camera was closely monitoring their actions. The bathroom sequence during the second half of the film, in particular, is very much testing what can legally be done in a mainstream film.
Henshall and Pittaway deserve an enormous amount of credit. The former's sudden transformations are chilling – when the camera looks into his eyes, the viewer could immediately feel the cold breath of death. The latter looks completely detached from reality but deep inside he is seriously hurting. His eyes also reveal plenty.
The direction is top-notch. Kurzel knows exactly when to allow the viewer to see what needs to be seen, as well as when to let the viewer's imagination do all the work. Jed Kurzel's very atmospheric soundtrack also does wonders. It is essentially a key character in the film as well, reacting and evolving as the horrific events begin to take place.
Snowtown was lensed by cinematographer Adam Aarkapaw, who also lensed the recent Australian hit Animal Kingdom as well as the Oscar hopeful Lore.
Note: Snowtown is winner of six Australian Film Institute Awards, including Best Direction (Justin Kurzel), Best Lead Actor (Daniel Henshall), and Best Adapted Screenplay (Shaun Grant). The film also won Critics Week - Special Mention and FIPRESCI Prize - Special Mention Awards at the Cannes Film Festival.
Snowtown Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Justin Kurzel's Snowtown arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of British distributors Revolver Entertainment.
The presentation is very strong. Despite the fact that contrast is effectively toned down and natural light used as much as possible to give the film a documentary look, clarity is consistently pleasing. Close-ups also convey very good depth, while the larger panoramic shots during the final third of the film boast excellent fluidity (see screencapture #3). Color reproduction is also very convincing - there are a variety of cold blues, light browns, greens, and grays. There are no traces of problematic lab tinkering. Excluding one sequence where some light banding is present, there are no purely transfer specific anomalies to report in this review either. Lastly, there are no serious stability issues. To sum it all up, this is a very competent, practically flawless presentation of Snowtown that should impress videophiles. (Note: This is a Region-Free Blu-ray disc. Therefore, you will be able to play it on your PS3 or SA regardless of your geographical location. For the record, there is no problematic PAL or 1080/50i content preceding the disc's main menu).
Snowtown Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There are two audio tracks on this Blu-ray disc: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and English LPCM 2.0. For the record, Revolver Entertainment have not provided optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature.
Snowtown is complimented by an exceptionally strong ambient soundtrack that gets a tremendous boost from the lossless 5.1 track. I don't have a DVD release of this film to run some direct comparisons, but I must speculate that a number of sequences would not be as effective as they are with a lossy track. The depth and richness of the sound are truly outstanding. Surround activity is also very effective, though you should not expect to hear the type of movement and intensity that are often present on big-budget action productions. The dialog is crisp, clean, and stable. The lack of optional English subtitles, however, is somewhat disappointing because occasionally the thick accents could present challenges for some viewers.
Snowtown Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Note: All of the supplemental features are perfectly payable on North American Blu-ray players, including the PS3.
Snowtown Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Words cannot describe how incredibly disturbing Justin Kurzel's Snowtown is. I can't say I enjoyed it, but the direction is outstanding and the acting absolutely phenomenal. Very, very powerful film, which lingers long after the final credits have rolled. If the film's subject appeals to you, don't miss it. Revolver Entertainment's presentation of Snowtown is very good. The release also comes with some very informative supplemental features, including an excellent audio commentary with the film's director. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
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Snowtown Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Snowtown Blu-ray - October 22, 2011
UK-based Revolver Entertainment has set a preliminary release date for Justin Kurzel's Snowtown (2011), starring Daniel Henshall, Lucas Pittaway, and Craig Coyne. The South Australian film premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in May, where it won FIPRESCI Prize ...
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