Plot: When she took a position as a tutor at a remote farm, Heather Walsh (Greta Gregory) was nineteen and naive to a lot of the ways of the world. When she arrived, she was taken back by her employer, an older man who seems unwashed and refined, named Bill Cornelius (Mark Mitchinson). At first, Bill was kind and friendly, but Heather was unaware that this period of kindness was part of a grooming process, as he would soon take things in a darker direction. By the time he starts to abuse and rape her, she already feels like a captive in her own mind, thanks to the psychological and emotion manipulation she had already endured. She wanted to escape, but even when she was allowed to go off the farm and be around other people, she was unable to break the mental control he had over her. Even as his grip tightens however, she tries to resist and find an escape plan.
Entertainment Value: This movie is based on real life events, when Heather Walsh was held prisoner by Bill Cornelius for about six months, forced to endure torture and abuse at the hands of the sadistic, depraved man. The Monster of Mangatiti focus on how she was able to endure and survive, avoiding falling into the usual exploitation traps and telling a powerful story in the process. This is a movie in the usual sense, a scripted drama with actors and such, but the experience is narrated by Walsh herself, via a series of candid, personal interviews. This first hand account that narrates the movie adds so much to the experience, as this is the woman who lived these horrific events. This makes sure we never treat the movie like just another tragic story, since Walsh herself is there to remind how real and brutal her experience was.
I appreciated the focus on the psychological aspect of the situation, as few movies try to convey the devastating nature of mental/emotional control. I can see why some would question why Walsh didn’t run sooner, especially since she was even with her mother at one point, but it makes sense why she didn’t. If you research similar situations like this one, this is a theme that surfaces often, as Stockholm Syndrome is very real and is a common presence in these kind of cases. I hope that this movie helps people understand the process and why victims sometimes don’t escape when they can, as suffering like this is bad enough, without having their decisions questioned. The cast here is quite good, with Greta Gregory in the lead and she is able to convey the intense suffering, but also an inner strength to survive. Mark Mitchinson provides a capable villain, giving us a sadistic, hateful performance. His visual presence is impressive as well, capturing the basic look of Cornelius well. In the end, The Monster of Mangatiti is a powerful story about survival, rooted in real life events and narrated by the women who experienced it all first hand.