As there's some sort of unwritten rule which permits Australia from producing more than one good film per year, everyone and their touchy-feely uncle (me included) has been arguing about whether or not this debut from Justin Kurzel is better than David Michôd's Animal Kingdom (another uncomfortable thriller based on real-life serial killings down under). As per usual you should ignore the journalistic laziness that's pitting the features against each other and enjoy each film for their own merits, although I use the term "enjoy" loosely since this is grimmer (more grim? Grimmier? *gives up*) than Victoria Beckham's facial expression, Bambi's mum getting shot and the massive queue outside your local job centre combined.
Between August 1992 and May 1999 eleven people were murdered and most of the remains were discovered in barrels of acid. Of the four people charged with the crimes, it was decided that John Justin Bunting was the ringleader which is no surprise since every syllable of that name wreaks of evil. A story such as this, which enthralled and disgusted the nation in equal measures, obviously needs to be handled correctly and it's a good thing that Kurzel is a far more assertive and confident director than his experience (or lack thereof) would have you believe. Much like Animal Kingdom, the psycho of the piece takes a vulnerable young man under his wing, but unlike the aforementioned this focuses much more on family, community and social depravity despite it's uncomfortable intensity. I watched this within the comfort of my own home and I still felt like crawling under the table and waiting for my mummy to come home. The backward community within which it is set is riddled with close-minded attitudes and Bunting (Daniel Henshall) takes his opportunity to appoint himself as the leader and assert a position of trust, so when he starts murdering dogs and removing toenails, everyone will turn a blind eye. He is without doubt the most terrifying thing to come out of Australia for a long long time....
While we're on the subject, when did it become OK to murder innocent dogs in films? After this and Tyrannosaur I'm going to suggest that we have less of that and more of this:
If that wasn't clear enough for you, Snowtown is all sorts of excellent, but a hard watch, and a hard one to shake. And yes, I do prefer Animal Kingdom. What of it?