M.L. Miller here! As I go into the tenth year of reviewing horror films, I wanted to go back to the beginning and repost some of the films I loved. Last month, counted down my favorite horror films from my first year of reviewing. Now it’s on to Year Two which began officially on October 1, 2011 and went through September 30, 2012. I have posted compilation lists in the past, but a lot of those old reviews haven’t seen the light of day since they were first posted many moons ago. Being the OCD person that I am, I have also worked and reworked the list, looking back at my own choices and shifting them around a bit. I’ve even added a few that I might have missed or looked over from the year in question. So, if you think you know how these lists are going to turn out, you don’t!
How did I compile this list? I simply looked through films released between October 1st, 2011 and September 30, 2012 and worked and reworked the list until I had the magic number—31. Again, I never call myself any kind of expert in horror. I simply watch a lot of horror films and love writing about them. Don’t forget to like and share my picks with your pals across the web on your own personal social media. Chime in after the review and let me know what you think of the film, how on the nose or mind-numbingly wrong I am, or most importantly, come up with your own darn list…let’s go!
Released on March 2, 2012 and available on Video On Demand, digital download, and DVD/BluRay!
THE SNOWTOWN MURDERS (2011)
Directed by Justin Kurzel
Written by Justin Kurzel & Shaun Grant
Starring Lucas Pittaway, Daniel Henshall, Louise Harris, Bob Adriaens, Frank Cwiertniak, Matthew Howard, Marcus Howard, Anthony Groves, Richard Green, Aaron Viergever, Beau Gosling, Brendan Rock
Find out more about this film here!
THE SNOWTOWN MURDERS recounts the true life murders that happened in and around the town of Snowtown, South Australia during the 1990’s and follows a young boy named James (Lucas Pittaway) as he is pulled into a murder spree by his mother’s boyfriend John Bunting (played by Daniel Henshall). The story is a relentless depicting how one disturbed mind can influence others into doing awful, awful things.
In many ways, THE SNOWTOWN MURDERS reminded me of GUMMO, as the film depicts the bleak environment of white trash kids and their neglectful families. This is definitely a slow mover, taking its time to flesh out James, his relationship with his brothers and mother, and finally his complex interactions with Bunting. This film took a lot of flack by the unflinching scenes of child abuse and molestation that happens in the first moments. These scenes are extremely difficult to get through, but the power of these actions influence the rest of the story that plays out serving as the starting point for a discussion that leads to the devious acts Bunting and his cohorts perform later in the film. Having heard discussions like the one that takes place between the family and friends of the children after the perpetrator is identified, it is easy to see that all it takes is one step further to incite a lynch mob. Bunting takes that step and continues down that dark path for the rest of the film.
Animal lovers will also have a lot of difficulty with this one. The closing credits say that no living animal was harmed in this film and I believe it. But that doesn’t mean that the suggested violence toward the family dog and the violence performed on the dead kangaroos here are not stomach churning to animal lovers like myself.
Though the acts against the children are often believed to be even more heinous than animal abuse, the film handles these acts of violence in a manner that does not feel exploitative or gratuitous. Other than forcing the children to pose for pictures in their underwear, the abuse is not seen on camera. Nevertheless, the stark way the sequence is filmed and the confused and somewhat frightened faces of the boys serve as the stuff of nightmares I don’t want to revisit.
Because the film begins with such a gut punch, it’s hard not to identify with Bunting’s rage. But the complexity of this film lies in the old adage, “Two wrongs don’t make a right.” Bunting’s manipulative power over the children is just as horrific as the abuse performed by the molester in the beginning. First he works his way in as the protective father figure, then pushes them into submission by berating them and finally methodically manipulates them to help him on his murder spree. Bunting’s grooming is vividly shown through the placid eyes of James. As charismatic a performance Henshall’s Bunting is as the murderer, Pittaway’s performance as James serves as the heartbroken soul of the film. Desperately in search of a positive father figure, you see James happiness as he bonds with Bunting, and witness his confusion and heartbreak to see where that admiration takes him. This is a painful character journey through emotions many may not be comfortable experiencing, but nevertheless immensely powerful.
THE SNOWTOWN MURDERS is an intense film. It may be too much for some, but I found myself riveted in the final moments. Kurzel uses single warped chords and tribal rhythms to amp up the tension, bringing a feeling of sheer unease. Though the subject matter is about as gruesome as they come, I was surprised at how little is actually shown as far as violence. Though in many occasions, not showing the violence is a cop out, it couldn’t be further from the truth here. The horrors happen off screen, just around the corner, or between the scenes, making the film all the more harrowing. Many will find this subject matter simply too much to sit through, not because of what happens on screen, but through the unblinking eye of the film’s star, Lucas Pittaway, as we are reminded of the horror he has experienced. THE SNOWTOWN MURDERS is a hard pill to swallow, but if you’re looking for real life horror, this is about as real as it gets.
THE 2011-2012 COUNTDOWN!
#22 – THE SNOWTON MURDERS
#23 – PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 3
#24 – [REC]3 GENESIS
#25 – JULIA’S EYES
#26 – MOTHER’S DAY
#27 – EL PARAMO (THE SQUAD)
#28 – INBRED
#29 – THE SLEEPER
#30 – FATHER’S DAY
#31 – THE MOTH DIARIES
M. L. Miller is a wordslinger/writer of wrongs/reviewer/interviewer/editor of MLMILLERWRITES.COM. Follow @Mark_L_Miller.
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