The Monster of Mangatiti full movie review - Misery, Exploited
I'll admit it; I chose it in Netflix fully aware of the content of this film, and for the most part, it lived up to its promises. Now, gentle reader--do you need yet another reminder that unadulterated evil runs unchecked in those who live among us--and that justice is often not served?
As a documentary, Monster is accurate and believable: a naive 19-year-old girl with a sketchy job history and a fantasy of traveling the world accepts a reportedly well paying and temporary job as tutor to a young boy at a home secreted away in the tangled underbrush of New Zealand's outback. The fact that her new employer is a hermit, seems not to have bathed or shaved in years, and has several locked gates separating the homestead from the nearest road an hour away, fails to register as cause for alarm. After a month of friendly bonding, the abuse begins..sexual, and more. Now pregnant and literally barefoot, the girl becomes a captive both physically and psychologically. As with all victims of Stockholm Syndrome, she comes to believe, even in brief trips to town, that escape is impossible and if attempted would lead to the murder of her family.
The tension and suspense as the story is told by accomplished NZ actors in a memorable, lush setting, are powerfully effective, and the viewer gets just enough information about the sadistic Bill Cornelius to understand the strength of his control over both the protagonist and other victimized women who came before and after her. But questions stubbornly hang in the air. Why is Bill's son seemingly oblivious to the abuse, even as bruises appear, his new friend gets pregnant, and then mysteriously loses the baby? Why is it surprising to the boy that she would want to leave, as she is forced into more and more horrific situations and he has seen three other tutors come and go? And why does it take the New Zealand courts almost four years to start to bring Cornelius to trial once the abused woman finally goes public thirty years later--by which time the man was mentally incompetent?
Photos of the participants in the original kidnapping and a final interview with the victim bring the story to life. But with a better fleshed out story, the public would better empathize with other kidnapped and abused women who fail to run when they can, and live decades hiding secrets that need to be brought into the open. If the film had provided that insight, it would have risen above exploitation and sensationalism and provided a genuine public service.