It’s taken 22 years for Alison’s story to be told on the big screen, and I believe it took that long because Alison Botha was waiting for Uga Carlini to enter her life. Only Uga could tell Alison’s story, Alison’s way. A scary/beautiful hybrid of real-life monsters and magical realism, we as the viewers must remind ourselves that the hollowed-out shell of a woman pouring blood into the filthy beach sand isn’t the depraved imaginings of a horror writer, but the truth. This happened.
Abducted, raped, stabbed, disembowelled and almost decapitated, Alison’s physical wounds were so grievous that her doctors were stunned that she survived. But she did. Somehow, she turned the viciousness and brutality and rage directed against her, and used it to channel her own recovery. “We are capable of a lot more than we think,” Alison muses.
Alison’s emotional wounds however, would prove much harder to heal. In the years following her attack, she relived her nightmare daily, hourly, and with devastating consequences. Depression, anxiety and apathy ruled her waking existence, until she discovered the incredible healing that comes from sharing your personal trauma with others. Love, children, a semblance of normality followed, but ultimately, her fairy-tale ending eludes her, as she says so wistfully in the film.
Uga Carlini’s draws out Alison’s emotional struggle as if drawing poison from a snakebite. We see Alison confront the tangible objects of her torture from that night, and discard them as if cleaning out the ghosts from your cupboard and setting them alight. Visceral testimonies from her doctors and friends place the viewer inside that dark period and we feel the things that they felt, even in some small measure. Masterful casting and an emphasis on progression are what make this film so much more than a gory retelling. Its understatement is its power, thanks to the almost spiritual connection between Alison and Uga.
Alison, to me, has done the unthinkable. She refused to be defined by what two monsters did to her body in 1994, but instead shows us that, through seemingly insurmountable odds, you can find your true purpose. And for Alison, this certainly isn’t the end.
Written by Katie Reynolds