(Lisa recently discovered that she only has about 8 hours of space left on her DVR! It turns out that she’s been recording movies from July and she just hasn’t gotten around to watching and reviewing them yet. So, once again, Lisa is cleaning out her DVR! She is going to try to watch and review 52 movies by Sunday, December 4th! Will she make it? Considering that she only has a day left, probably not. But keep checking the site to find out!)
Girl in the Box originally aired on Lifetime on September 10th and I have to admit that I specifically chose to record it as opposed to watching it. That’s because Girl In The Box was based on the true story of the kidnapping and 7 year enslavement of Colleen Stan. It’s an incredibly disturbing story and I knew that, much like last year’s Cleveland Abduction, Girl In The Box would give me nightmares.
And, having now watched the film, I think I probably made the right decision. Girl In The Box is an incredibly unsettling film, one that is all the more upsetting for being based on a true story.
In 1977, 20 year-old Colleen (played by Addison Timlin) is hitchhiking from Oregon to California. We watch as Colleen turns down two prospective rides, one from a group of frat boys and one from an older couple that wasn’t going far enough. When she does accept a ride, it’s from Cameron Hooker (Zane Holtz) and his wife, Janice (Zelda Williams). What we know, but Colleen doesn’t, is that Cameron has just recently murdered another woman that he abducted.
Soon, Colleen is being held prisoner in a tiny wooden box, only being brought out so that she can be abused and raped by Cameron. Cameron forces her to sign a “slave contract” and he tells her that he is a part of a much larger conspiracy. Even if Colleen could escape, he tells her, his associates would track her down and kill both her and her family. Slowly, Colleen’s will is broken down.
And through it all, Janice watches. Janice, we learn, married Cameron when she was sixteen and he seemed like he was the most handsome and charming guy in the world. It was after they got married that she discovered that Cameron was a monster. Cameron justifies his crimes by claiming that, if he wasn’t abusing Colleen, he would be abusing Janice. Janice, the film suggests, is just as brainwashed as Colleen. They are both prisoners of a truly evil creature.
(It should be noted that the film is generally sympathetic to Janice. I’ve read a few true crime accounts of Colleen Stan’s kidnapping that paint a far less forgiving picture.)
Much like Cleveland Abduction, Girl In The Box was difficult for me to watch. The three main actors totally committed to their roles, taking the audience to a very dark place, one that was all the more disturbing for being real. Zane Holtz revealed Cameron’s evil and sadistic side while, at the same time, showing how he could easily fool the rest of the world into thinking that he was a normal, likable guy. Zelda Williams portrayed Janice’s growing horror at realizing what her life has become, while at the same time never entirely letting Janice off the hook for her part in Cameron’s crimes. And Addison Timlin was courageously vulnerable as Colleen.
It’s hard for me to recommend Girl In The Box because it really is such an unpleasant film. I mean, this is not a film to watch if you’re just looking for a relaxing night in front of the TV. But I do think it has an important message. There are other Cameron Hookers out there and the reason that they thrive is because, far too often, people are scared to get involved. There were so many times that Cameron’s crimes could have been exposed if only people were willing to follow up their concerns.
Ultimately, Girl In The Box is a story of survival. Somehow, Colleen Stan survived her ordeal. I don’t know if I could have.