The Snowtown Murders


Viewed – 13 March 2021 online rental

Aka ‘Snowtown’

Yeah I’ll admit it, I kinda like seeking out disturbing movies. I suppose I like to push my boundaries, and I’ve seen some seriously disturbing movies over the years. This one, from Australia tells the true story of one of the country’s worst serial killers. We are thrown into the lives of a family in a rundown suburban neighbourhood where the mother has a boyfriend who is sexually abusing the kids. He’s soon kicked out and the mother befriends a local man, John Bunting who rallies the neighbourhood together to discuss sorting out their peaedophile problem. Before long he’s convincing people to terrorise the offenders out of their homes. However scaring them off isn’t enough for this guy and soon he’s kidnapping, torturing and eventually killing. Yet his hatred of sex offenders isn’t enough and quickly he begins targeting anyone he doesn’t like the look of, including gays or drug addicts.

Murder in the suburbs…

This is disturbing for sure, shot in a bleak fly on the wall ultra-real style that makes it very convincing. Although 90% of the murders are off screen, the movie conveys the horrors with reactions from those involved and the playback of tape recordings of each victim to tell their families they’re leaving or running away. One such scene, in a bathroom was really hard to watch due to its unflinching brutality, so I’m kind of glad the other murders were not shown.

That being said it was easy to lose track of who was getting killed and who wasn’t. One victim looked quite similar to another guy at one stage that when that other guy turned up it threw me. Daniele Henshaw as John Bunting is charismatically unnerving, although most of the other cast were just ‘there’. Lucas Pittaway as Jamie Vlassakis didn’t say much but at least conveyed a great deal in his eyes. As a moment-in-time snapshot of the real life case, this doesn’t go into the investigation nor do you see anyone get caught, but regardless this was still effective and thoroughly unpleasant viewing. One for those that are into this kind of movie only.

Verdict: Good

Frenzy


Viewed – 09 May 2020 Blu-ray (A-Z Collection Challenge)

I have a confession. I have never really got that much into the movies of famed director Alfred Hitchcock, and my experiences with his work have been fleeting at best, with possibly only Rear Window being a movie I have watched all the way through. However I intend to rectify this and have recently purchased a couple of box sets that house many of his classics. This 1972 effort, made towards the end of his career may not have the word of mouth or notoriety of movies like Psycho or The Birds, but I’d say is still worthy of your time.

Following getting fired from his job as a bartender, a man becomes embroiled in the hunt for a serial killer, nicknamed the necktie killer due to the victims, all women being found strangled with a tie. Set in London and with a decidedly tongue-in-cheek tone, mostly shot in bright daylight, this like Psycho marries the mundanity of normal life and normal folk with the looming shadow of a killer. The movie isn’t a whodunnit as-such, more of a ‘how do I prove I didn’t do it?’, with the actual killer revealed early on. Filled with interesting, quirky characters, a very of-the-time acting style, some corny cor-blimey cockney dialogue and several recognisable faces from British television … this wasn’t like any serial killer thriller I’d seen, which made the movie more ‘fun’ than expected. Such a style at times sat uneasy with more shocking scenes including a rape and murder, with the killer particularly unnerving in his relative normality. Yet that all worked in the movie’s favour I’d say.

As an introduction to Hitchcock this might be a bit Hitchcock-lite from what I hear, although retains his famed visual flourishes and suspense. On its own merits, I found this unique and gripping … and I rather enjoyed it.

The Blu-ray, part of the Alfred Hitchcock Masterpiece Collection has an impressively sharp and vibrant image, that has a look of technicolour. Grain is intact and detail very good throughout. Sound is also effective and clear in DTS Master Audio 2.0. Extras consist of a fascinating making of documentary as well as a trailer and production photographs.

Verdict:

(the movie). Good

(the Blu-ray) Recommended

The House That Jack Built


Viewed – 05 March 2019. Blu-Ray

Matt Dillon, who first caught my attention following his star-making role in cult favourite Drugstore Cowboy returns after what seems to have been a long absence from the movie scene. Hats off to him for choosing such a controversial role as ‘Jack’ a man recanting five incidents during a twelve year history as a serial killer.

The House That Jack Built

One of those movies that instantly stirred up controversy following it’s Cannes debut. With a myriad of clever, baffling and disturbing references in an attempt to explore a damaged mind, both revered and reviled director Lars Von Trier’s movie is equal parts challenging, shocking and decidedly clever. Structurally with Jack’s repeated attempt to build a house whilst at the same time descending into madness is a work of ingenious symbolism. In amidst harrowing depictions of breast-slicing or strangulation there’s also a surprising and welcome amount of satire and dark comedy (returning a rigpr mortis-stricken body to the scene of the crime, OCD cleaning up), that comparisons to American Psycho or French thriller Man Bites Dog are valid. However, one scene involving a mother and her two little boys challenged even my admittedly far reaching boundaries.

Dillon is fantastic and very convincing as this unfeeling sociopathic killer and in different material (or if he was Anthony Hopkins) might have got the Oscar nod. Yes, Von Trier gets self-indulgent in his artistic flourishes, throwing in German expressionist-like imagery and footage from the holocaust as well as his own movies to hammer home various points about art and violence. Yet along with Jack’s narrated conversations with disembodied confidant ‘Verge’ … what we ultimately get is a very unique take on the serial-killer subject, meaning I came away rather impressed.

Verdict: 4 /5

My Friend Dahmer


Viewed – 23 June 2018  online-rental

When movies attempt to tackle the subject of a real life serial killer, the results are often sensationalist tabloid rubbish that fail to reveal anything new or a deeper understanding.  This movie tries to show a side of one of America’s most notorious killers during his high school years, before he became a monster.

myfrienddahmer

Jeffrey Dahmer (Ross Lynch) is portrayed as a heavily introverted loner school kid who gets befriended by some other kids who go about promoting yet inadvertently ridiculing him in an attempt to bring him out of his shell.  Jeffrey goes along with such treatment in a desperate bid to find a connection and a distraction from morbid urges, confusion with his sexuality and constantly quarrelling parents.

Director Marc Meyers’  movie fails to delve under Dahmer’s persona to reveal what made him tick or how such urges developed that eventually lead to particularly depraved murders.  Instead we have him as little more than an oddball that would occasionally act out for attention.  Newcomer Lynch gives a subdued, rather weak performance, perfecting a slumped stance but not much more.  The casting of Dahmer’s parents (including a stand-out Anne Heche) is more interesting and from what I hear, pretty much on the nail.  Based on a graphic novel by Dahmer’s high school friend this more than likely throws in some artistic licence with what went on and who Dahmer actually was, but ultimately fails to do much more than showcase a weirdo with a few alarming habits.  Considering who Dahmer became, this barely hints at any of it, making the final scene feel a bit of a stretch …despite the facts.

Verdict:  2.5 /5

I Am Not A Serial Killer


This relatively unknown, low budget indie thriller caught my eye due to it’s concept.  A teenage kid who believes he could become a serial killer due to an obsession with murderers and his own sociopathic behaviour, stumbles on an actual serial killer case in his home town.  That’s a (pun intended) killer concept right there.

I Am Not A Serial Killer

Borrowing a tad from the overall plot of Dexter (takes a serial killer to track a serial killer) and with a ghoulish tongue-in-cheek sense of humour, I was easily along for the ride.  The idea of exploring serial killers and lending that knowledge to tracking one down is interesting, but my gripe with this is that it’s a movie that doesn’t entirely have the balls to follow through on it’s concept.  That being said performances are decent, especially genre legend Christopher Lloyd and young unknown Max Records (who clearly has to open a vinyl store).  I also thought the killer’s motives were strangely sympathetic and at times it did get pretty grim and macabre (the lead character also works in a mortuary, so is surrounded by death).   Now I’m going a little into spoiler territory in the next paragraph so if you want to go into this one totally fresh STOP READING NOW.

(mild spoilers).  My issue is that the killer is not human, but some sort of creature and like movies before it (Jeepers Creepers, IT) that began promisingly with an eerie villain but later descend into ‘its a monster or an alien’ when they’re finally unmasked is both lazy and rather contrived.  Why not make the serial killer a human being?  Or is that a little too close to reality?

Some out of place choices of rock music ruin the mood occasionally, and overall it came off like an extended X-Files episode (not a bad thing).  However I still managed to enjoy this despite it’s shortcomings and a reliance on horror movie convention.

Verdict:  3 /5