Crime Week, Day 1: The Snowtown Murders

Hi, guys!  Looking at my little (actually kinda long) list of releases I've been meaning to cover, I noticed that I've got a tight little group of disparate true crime films, so I thought I'd group them up into a creepy Crime Week.  For our purposes, I mean true crime films in the sense of dramatic films about an actual crime, like Boys Don't Cry or Bernie, rather than the more typical "true crime film" documentary, a la The Thin Blue Line.  And I've got the perfect one to start with: a great, underrated film that I've been itching to cover for a while, because its status in the US is really frustrating.
It's called Snowtown, or as it's been retitled in the US, The Snowtown Murders.  I'm not mad at that alteration.  In Australia, it's a very well known, grisly case of multiple murders.  In fact, it's "Australia's most infamous crime story" according to the blu-ray cover.  They'll immediately get what you mean if you reference the small Adelaide suburb over there; but here, "Snowtown" will just lead people to expect a cute little Santa Claus movie, so it makes sense to change it.  A tad pedantic, but it does the job.

It took me a while to properly discover this film.  This used to be Netflix's number one recommendation for me back when I was still on that service.  Whenever I logged in, it would be right there at the top of the list, and I never actually marked it Not Interested, but I never bit the bullet and gave it a watch either.  So every day they would pitch me "Snowtown?"  And every day I'd be like, ehh, what else ya got?  (Answer: not much, but don't get me started on Netflix's streaming selection).  Finally, I wound up catching the first half of it on television at a friend's house, and I knew right away I was going to have go order the blu-ray as soon as I got home.  Of course, I was assuming there was a blu-ray to order.
As terrific as Snowtown is, though, I should warn you all it's definitely not for everybody.  It's super dark.  And I don't just mean because it features grisly murders that you know actually took place.  Obviously, most true crime films tend to be dark; but this one's especially bleak.  It paints a very sad look at reality that you'll wish you didn't recognize as much as you do.  And the fact that the most evil character (and there's some stuff competition in this movie) is eerily reminiscent of Ricky Gervais just makes everything all the creepier.  He marries into a struggling, suburban family, and uses a mix of charisma and intimidation to lead his family into committing a series of hate crimes and homicides.  But they're protected in the neighborhood, because their victims are abusers and child molesters... or sometimes just the accusation is enough.  The violence continues to escalate until something eventually has to give.
Snowtown came out in 2011, but it took until late 2012 for IFC Films to eventually release it as The Snowtown Murders here in the US.  On DVD only.  Seeing as it was an Australian film, though, I thought I'd check and, sure enough, Madman had already put it out down there over a year ago on DVD and blu.  Tough luck for the region locked, but let's see what rewards await those of us who've broken our chains.
1) US 2012 IFC DVD; 2) Aus 2011 Madman BD.
These discs came out when the film was a new release, so it's no surprise that we're looking at the same root transfer.  But there are differences.  The most obvious being, of course, that the BD is less compressed, sharper with clearer detail because it's in HD.  Duh.  But less obvious is that the BD is matted to 1.85:1, while the DVD is slightly taller at 1.83:1, because it's slightly vertically stretched.  You'd never spot it if you weren't doing a direct comparison, but that's an extra flaw the BD doesn't have.  But if that's too subtle for you, here's an extra flaw the DVD has that you probably will notice just watching this on your television: it's interlaced.  A major new release disc is interlaced in 2012?  How does that get by QC?  It's one thing when we're looking at old DVDs from 2001, or from scrappy little indie companies that are still figuring this stuff out, but come on.

Both discs naturally have the same Dolby 5.1 mix, but the blu-ray's track is lossless.  Both discs also include optional English subtitles, with additional Spanish subs on the DVD.
On the plus side, both discs are pretty thorough special editions.  Most of the major extras are shared, but both discs have some exclusives, too.  But let's start with the basics that are spread across both releases.  There's a solid, informative commentary by director Justin Kurzel, a collection of deleted scenes with and without the director's commentary, some interesting casting and audition footage, the trailer and a teaser.  There's also a promising-sounding piece on the real Snowtown crimes, but it turns out to be just text on screen, so it barely qualifies as a video extra.  It's less convenient than looking the information up on your phone, but if for some reason you can't do that, I guess it's better than nothing.
Blue Tongue
The Blu-ray goes further, though, including a 25-minute on-camera interview with the director.  Then there are three short films.  The first is Blue Tongue, Kurzel's first short film from 2005.  The second and third are really music videos Kurzel made for his younger brother's band called The Mess Hall.  You can definitely skip those unless you're a hardcore fan determined to do a complete, 100% dive through Kurzel's entire body of work, but Blue Tongue is actually a rewarding little watch on its own terms.  The blu also has a stills gallery and some bonus trailers.

Anyway, the DVD doesn't have any of that additional stuff, but it does have it's own exclusive: a collection of cast and crew interviews.  There's a ten-minute one with Kurzel, and then really short ones (ranging from under two and a half minutes to a little less than five and a half) with cast members Daniel Henshall, Louise Harris and producers Anna McLeish & Sarah Shaw.  It's good to hear from these other participants, but their length makes them feel more promotional than really rewarding.  Still, I wish these were on the blu.  Ideally all of the extras would be available on at least one release, but nah.
So with the DVD-only option also being interlaced, Americans who care enough to want PQ beyond just "enough so I can watch it" are really forced to import.  I should also point out that there's a UK blu-ray from Revolver that has the same extras as the US DVD, but I recommend the Madman because I think their extras package is a little richer.  Either way, though, at least you don't have settle for the only option they gave us in the US.

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