Don’t let that image up top fool you. Deeply unsettling, controversial, and one of the most talked-about films at Cannes last year (it played the Critics’ Week sidebar, taking home a Special Jury prize) the Australian film “Snowtown” (renamed “The Snowtown Murders” for American audiences) is one that you won’t soon forget.
Based on the true and horrifying crimes uncovered in 1999 in the titular city in Australia, the debut film from Justin Kurzel, if anything, marks the arrival of a talent to keep an eye on. The story centers on Jamie (Lucas Pittaway), a teenager who falls under the spell and care of a seemingly ordinary neighbor, John (Daniel Henshall), but what emerges is relationship so twisted, it’s hard to stomach. John essentially builds up Jamie’s tolerance to violence and torture before introducing him to an even grander scheme. We won’t say any more, but when we saw the film, a mass exodus of walkouts occurred during one agonizing sequence in particular (and we heard that the reaction was the same in other screenings).
But make no mistake. Those exits aren’t an indication of the film’s quality (though it is uneven, and the approach raises some questions), but rather of just how harrowing it is. And yet, its gratuitious nature does have a purpose (to a point) and it’s hard to deny that Kurzel directed the shit out of it, creating an unnerving mood and tension that’s hard to shake off. “The Snowtown Murders” will start rolling out via IFC Midnight on March 2nd. Get a taste below.