The Snowtown Murders

March 2nd 2012
  • Drama/Thriller,
  • Unrated,
  • 119 min,
  • IFC Releasing
  • Cast: Lucas Pittaway, Bob Adriaens, Louise Harris, Frank Cwiertniak, Matthew Howard, Marcus Howard, Anthony Groves, Richard Green, Aaron Viergever, Beau Gosling, Brendan Rock, Daniel Henshall, David Walker, Aasta Brown, Keiran Schwerdt, Craig Coyne, Kathryn Wissell, Krystle Flaherty, Andrew Mayers, Robert Deeble
  • Director: Justin Kurzel
  • Writers: Shaun Grant, Justin Kurzel, Debi Marshall, Andrew McGarry
  • Producers: Anna McLeish, Sarah Shaw
  • Art Direction: Chris Jobson
  • Casting: Allison Meadows
  • Costume Designs: Alice Babidge, Fiona Crombie
  • D.O.P.: Adam Arkapaw
  • Editor: Veronika Jenet
  • Makeup: Marie-Lyne Morant
  • Music: Jed Kurzel
  • Production Design: Fiona Crombie


Sixteen-year-old Jamie lives with his mother, Elizabeth, and two younger brothers, Alex and Nicholas, in a housing trust home in Adelaide's northern suburbs. Their home is but one of many sun-starved houses crammed together to cater for a disenfranchised society. Jamie longs for an escape from the violence and hopelessness that surrounds him and his salvation arrives in the form of John, a charismatic man who unexpectedly comes to his aid.

As John spends more and more time with Jamie's family, Elizabeth and her boys begin to experience a stability and sense of family that they have never known. John moves from the role of Jamie's protector to that of a mentor, indoctrinating Jamie into his world, a world brimming with bigotry, righteousness and malice.

Like a son mimicking his father, Jamie soon begins to take on some of John's traits and beliefs as he spends more and more time with him and his select group of friends. The protection and guidance that John presents to Jamie is initially welcomed however as events occur around him, including the disappearance of several people, Jamie begins to harbour deep suspicions about John and his motivations.

When the truth is finally revealed to Jamie his hopes of happiness are threatened by both his loyalty for, and fear of, his father-figure John Bunting, Australia's most notorious serial killer.

Basic Information

  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Filming Locations: Adelaide, Australia
  • Production Companies: Screen Australia, Warp X Australia

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2011 Guide Analysis: "This Australian psychological thriller about real life serial killings in South Australia a decade ago had its world premiere last week at the BigPond Adelaide Film Festival. Reviews delivered great praise upon it, but admitted the content was brutal, confronting and highly disturbing - even for jaded audiences in this post-torture porn world.

A big part of that is the film's authenticity about the infamous Bodies in Barrels murders committed throughout the 90's in South Australia. Twelve victims in all, eight of which were found in barrels of acid located in a rented former bank building in Snowtown. Making it even more insidious is that it wasn't just one standalone nutter, but a half dozen people who had fallen under the whim of the psychopathic John Justin Bunting.

Bunting and his group tended to select relatives, friends or acquaintances who had committed some sort of imagined infraction and generallly satisfied Bunting's hatred of gay men, drug users and pedophiles. Prolonged torture took place from electric shocks to the genitals, lit sparklers being inserted into urethras, even one piece of cannibalism. At least three of the victims chosen were mentally handicapped.

The film itself only depicts one of the murders, likely the final one which was the only one that took place in Snowtown itself. Most of the film is told from the perspective of Jamie Vlassakis, at the time a late teenager who saw in Bunting a kind of father figure whose manipulations lead Jamie to becoming involved in four of the murders.

Several key people involved in the case have talked to the press after seeing the film and said it was accurate, produced with a degree of sensitivity, and both menacing and eerie. The cast of first-time actors and locals help add to the feel of the film which avoids the grotesque and exploitative nature of the crime in favor of the psychological study of those who took part in it - not just the criminals but the toll it took on the investigators as well. How this harrowing dramatic approach will work with the rest."

Trailers & Clips

Watch this films trailers
  • Australian Trailer (2m 7s)04.05.11

  • U.S. Trailer (2m 17s)02.15.12

  • Australian Teaser (34s)12.22.10

Worldwide Release Dates

  • 19 May 2011: Australia
  • 18 November 2011: Ireland, UK
  • 28 December 2011: France