Snowtown (Blu-ray) (2011)

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Released 21-Sep-2011

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Crime Audio Commentary-Director Justin Kurzel
Deleted Scenes-(17.36)
Interviews-Crew-Justin Kurzel (24.47)
Featurette-Original Casting Footage (8.44)
Short Film-Bluetongue, Bell, Pulse (15.51)
Featurette-The Snowtown Crimes (5.02)
Teaser Trailer-(.33)
Theatrical Trailer-(2.07)
Gallery-Photo-Stills Gallery
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2011
Running Time 120:00
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Justin Kurzel
Studio
Distributor

Madman Entertainment
Starring Shaun Grant
Shaun Grant
Justin Kurzel
Daniel Henshall
Lucas Pittaway
Louise Harris
Craig Coyne
Richard Green
David Walker
Anthony Groves
Keiran Schwerdt
Brendan Rock
Bob Adriaens
Case Standard Blu-ray
RPI $39.95 Music None Given


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Linear PCM 48/24 5.1 (4608Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

     Snowtown is the dramatic recreation of one of Australia's most horrific and shocking crimes-"the bodies in the barrels murders". This crime, Australia's most numerous serial killing, forever seared the small South Australian town of Snowtown into the national memory (unfairly so because while the bodies were discovered in Snowtown all bar one of the murders were committed and murderers came from some distance away. Nevertheless, the story of the killings achieved a national prominence alongside the murders by Ivan Milat and the Belanglo Forest in New South Wales, the Hoddle Street massacre in Melbourne, the Martin Bryant mass killing in Port Arthur Tasmania and the Claremont serial killer still at large in Western Australia.

     The inevitable question is whether this film comes too soon after the 1999 detection of the crimes and the eventual trials and appeals. For some the wounds will be too fresh and they will find the film unwatchable. Others will consider that the only appropriate time to make a movie about events like these is close to the event itself so that it ceases to be a history lesson and becomes more of an examination of the national psyche.

     Whilst there was no doubt some clever police work which led to the arrest of the murderers director Jason Kurzel's film, based on a script by Shaun Grant, is not about the success of capture. As the director rightly acknowledges in an interview which forms part of the special features on this Blu-ray release, this is a story without a positive angle or a redemptive arc. It is a bleak tale of manipulation, abuse and murder.

     16-year-old Jamie (newcomer Lucas Pittaway) lives with his mother Elizabeth (non actor Louise Harris), two younger brothers and an older half brother in a depressed section of Adelaide. Single mother Elizabeth hasn't had a great deal of luck with her choices in men and the latest is no better, photographing the boys, including the compliant Jamie, in various states of undress whilst babysitting. Into their lives come the supremely confident John Bunting (actor but first feature length performer Daniel Henshall) and his friend Mark Haydon (David Walker). Bunting isn't like Elizabeth's former boyfriends. He is confident and articulate if a little too devoted to a crusade of sorts. His obsession it seems is with the deviants who would take advantage of the children - into that group he lumps paedophiles, homosexuals and anyone who is vaguely suspicious of being one or the other. Jamie is star struck at the confidence of Bunting who becomes like a father to him.

     Some father, indeed, as Bunting is a skilled manipulator who combines hatred and prejudice with extreme sadism. It is a slow but inexorable journey for Jamie towards the dark side. As Bunting and his cronies continue to torture and kill it is no longer just those suspected of deviancy who are in the line of fire but the weak and the independent thinkers.

     To that extent the story of Snowtown is one about the power of rhetoric with the disenfranchised, or the "degenerate subculture", as expressed by the judge at the trial. When orators like Bunting can stir up the masses into a fervour against a common and weak enemy tipping them into violence, it seems like a foregone conclusion. Themes resound also on the banality of evil with crimes frequently played out against a droning TV of game shows and, most memorably, the cricket telecast.

     It may be a moral lesson but it is a hard one. Snowtown is relentlessly downbeat with an air of menace shot through every frame. Kurzel doesn't shy away from showing appalling violence. In fact, most of the horror is off screen yet this merely intensifies the sense of dread. Kurzel draws strong and honest performances from this cast largely comprised of inexperienced actors. Pittaway plays a vacant and compliant Jamie who we can see getting more and more indoctrinated until he becomes part of the machine. Louise Harris is perfect as the deflated mum, aware that something is wrong but too worn down to interfere. The devil has all the best tunes and Henshall creates one of the most powerful and disturbing portraits in modern memory. Bunting is so frightening and dangerous simply because he seems so genuine and affable, yet is capable of unspeakable acts of violence.

     Snowtown is, of course, an interpretation of the facts. It doesn't answer the question of whether these people murdered for money, a warped sense of social justice or simply because they derived pleasure from killing. Some will find it too depressing and bleak. For those with the patience and endurance, however, this is one of the most impressive Australian films of recent memory.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     Snowtown was shot on 16mm film by cinematographer Adam Arkapaw and projected in the cinema at a 1.85:1 aspect ratio. The Blu-ray is presented with the original aspect ratio impact.

     Notwithstanding the relatively lo-fi origins and the fact that the whole look of the film is intentionally gritty and grimy with often meagre lighting, this is a very good-looking film on Blu-ray. Image quality is sharp and the environments finally detailed. There are no problems with compression and the blacks are well handled. The skin tones are very accurate. The colours though subdued are accurate.

     There are subtitles in English for the hearing impaired which give a good account of on screen action.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     There is only one soundtrack for Snowtown being an English LPCM 5.1 are running at 4608 kb/S. The surround track gives an uneasy ambience to the film and the subwoofer is often engaged when the score by Jed Kurzwell (brother of Jason and of The Mess Hall fame) is playing. The music is used strikingly throughout. It is an electronic score with a strong bass sometime which serve to create unease.

     The sound is crisp and clear at all times. However, the dialogue can be difficult to follow mainly because of the naturalistic style of the performances coming from inexperienced or non-actors. A few scenes I had to replay with the subtitles to get the full idea of what was being said.

     There are no technical problems with the transfer.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

     There are a whole raft of extras included with this Blu-ray:

Audio commentary with director Justin Kurzel

     Speaking clearly and consistently throughout the director takes us through every stage of production from the first reading of two books regarding the murders, the development of the story and the script and the production process. He talks about the choices made particularly the level of violence to be included in the film. An interesting commentary track.

Deleted scenes

     There are three deleted scenes included - titled The breakup, Jamie Nadine and Michael, and The Beach which total just shy of 18 minutes. The deleted scenes really deal with three aspects of the film that, for time reasons and balance, could not be included. The first is the death of the cross-dresser Barry Davies. The second is the relationship between Jamie and his girlfriend Nadine which is referred to in the final film without being shown. Finally there are scenes featuring the "family" at the beach showing the integration of John into the family. Some interesting material.

Interview : Justin Kurzel

     This is a lengthy interview in which the director explains his methods and motivations in creating the film and some of the decisions made in telling the story. In fact, much of the material here is included in the commentary track. Nevertheless, this is an interesting interview with the director

Original casting footage

     There are three casting segments included here from Lucas Pittaway, Daniel Henschel and Louise Harris. The two newcomers introduce themselves and are interviewed by the unseen casting director and then go through some scenes. Some interesting footage as the director wanted to get cast members who were entirely authentic to the production. It is difficult to imagine anyone more authentic than Louise Harris.

Short films

     There are three short films included. The first, Blue Tongue, is a strange film about two people - a young man and a preteen girl, who meet in a field near some high power lines and find some bluetongue lizards. A strange and disturbing little film, a precursor to Snowtown, it is interesting for featuring Siona Smit (sister of Kodi Smit-McPhee) who later went on to be the troubled daughter in the comedy series Hung.

     The other two short films Bell and Pulse are in fact music videos for the band The Mess Hall. Both are interesting videos of great songs by this two piece blues/garage band.

The Snowtown Crimes

     This is a text description of the Snowtown murders with the text over the top of some images of local people and some disturbing music.

Teaser Trailer

     As it says ...

Theatrical Trailer

     ... on the box.

Stills Gallery

     19 Stills from the film.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

   This is an All Region Blu-ray.

Summary

     Snowtown is a look through a glass darkly. Many will compare it with Rowan Woods' The Boys, with its depiction of the evil that men do. But where that film was about violent men exploding into inevitable mayhem, this film is about the banality of evil and the slide into evil on the back of words and manipulation.

     The Blu-ray is of excellent quality in both sound and vision terms.

     There are oodles of extras to be absorbed by fans of the movie.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Trevor Darge (read my bio)
Monday, November 28, 2011
Review Equipment
DVDCambridge 650BD (All Regions), using HDMI output
DisplaySony VPL-VW80 Projector on 110" Screen. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationPioneer SC-LX 81 7.1
SpeakersAaron ATS-5 7.1

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