189. SNOWTOWN (dir. Justin Kurzel, 2011) (Hong Kong International Film Festival)
I had heard nothing but rave reviews of this film following its screening at Fantastic Fest last September, but had been unable to squeeze it into my schedule back then, or indeed at any other time until right now. Perhaps not the most appropriate film to watch on my birthday, but I figured that even in its grimmest moments I would at least appreciate the film’s technical merits and feel my time had not been wasted. Based on the true story of Australia’s most prolific serial killer, John Bunting (here portrayed by Daniel Henshall), the film is a stripped down and unflinching depiction of sadism, brutality and manipulation that refuses to make things easy for its audience. Lucas Pittaway gives an incredibly sympathetic portrayal as the teenager whose world collides with neighbourhood vigilante Bunting after being abused by his mum’s new boyfriend, only to get sucked into a hellish new life with seemingly no way out. The performances are all great and the deadpan execution is reminiscent of John McNaughton’s HENRY: PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER. However, a few indecipherable voice messages and unidentifiable bodies along the way prevented me from unreservedly enjoying this difficult yet impressively staged film.