by Elizabeth EstenBack in December, I was eating dinner with a few friends when one of them brought up that she had recently watched a little film called Megan is Missing. I asked what she thought of it. She described it as “scary” and “shocking,” which sparked my interest. Over winter break, I decided to give it a viewing out of curiosity, despite the Internet warning me to avoid it. At the 15 minute mark, I deeply regretted that decision, but due to the anxiety I develop if I don’t finish a movie, I had to push forward. After it was over, I only felt relief that it had ended and anger towards the abomination I just witnessed. This article is less a review and more of an emphatic warning to avoid this film like the plague it is. It’s also full of spoilers, only because I don’t want you to feel the hour and 22 minutes of pain I did. If I could give a movie negative stars, I would in a heartbeat for this thing.
Megan Stewart (Rachel Quinn) and Amy Herman (Amber Perkins) are best friends in their early teens. Megan is more outgoing and popular, while Amy is more shy and naive. As she surfs the “evil” Internet, Megan meets a boy named Josh and ends up going missing about a week later (hence the title). What will happen to Megan, and will she be found before it’s too late?
Written, produced and directed by Michael Goi, who is also the president of the ASC (American Society of Cinematographers), Megan is Missing is terrible in every aspect you can think of, including the font choices. But unlike Tommy Wiseau’s The Room, at no point is the movie unintentionally hilarious or interesting. The characterization is so poorly done and lacking in complexity, it’s astounding. I could summarize each of our main characters in a single sentence and not miss anything. Megan is sexually liberated and attractive. Amy is more innocent and socially awkward. There is nothing else to say about these two non-characters. The supporting players don’t fair any better, coming off as bland, generic and unmemorable.
An even bigger failure in the film is its presentation. Goi attempts to present his movie as “found footage” to give the story a sense of realism — a story which the director claims is based on multiple real-life crimes. But instead of adopting the style popularized by the Paranormal Activity franchise, Goi uses an approach employed much more successfully by 2015’s Unfriended. Most of the film is made up of webcam video chats between the characters, with some hand-held material coming into play later when Amy doesn’t have anyone to talk to. While this is a solid idea that can be pulled off in the right hands, the problem with this film is that it’s shot so blandly that the effect is very dull. Unfortunately, the dialogue doesn’t improve the mediocre nature of the visuals.
According to the official website for Megan is Missing, which looks like it was made in the late ’90s by someone who just found out how computers work, all the dialogue is based on actual conversations conducted by 13 and 14-year olds that Goi was permitted to listen to. First of all, this creeps me out to no end. Second of all, the conversations in this movie do nothing to progress the characters or their relationships past any basic character traits. Third, apparently 14-year olds have a lot more sex than I previously thought. In all seriousness, though, the dialogue in the movie is atrocious and completely unremarkable. It’s almost like the actors themselves are confused about what they’re saying, as if the script was written by a robot trying to figure out how teenagers speak. One scene in particular is extremely grating. At one point, Megan speaks with Amy about how she was forced to give her camp counselor a blow job at the age of 10. But Megan doesn’t talk about it with shock and horror — rather she describes it as a part of her sexual awakening. For a movie based on alleged real life conversations, this is incredibly unrealistic and offensive to many.
But the real crime committed by this movie is not the terrible dialogue, characters, performances or even the visual style. It’s the ending. After about an hour of incredibly boring scenes and god-awful pacing, the movie’s last 20 minutes are shown as “unedited” footage from Amy’s video camera(as we’re told in an awkward title card) after she is taken by Josh to an underground prison of some sort. Amy is stripped down to her underwear, chained up in a confined area with concrete walls and very little light, and is forced to eat dog food. These scenes are terrible, mostly due to the dark tone shift that the movie suddenly makes and how it it treats Amy like a sack of dirt. But the worst of it comes when she is raped by Josh — an act that is completely unexpected.
If set up correctly and used with enough respect, portraying a rape on film can be incredibly powerful. For this to work, the potential for such violence has to be established through dialogue and the actions of the characters. Michael Goi clearly doesn’t realize any of this. The scene literally comes out of nowhere. For one, we know nothing about Josh as a character besides the fact that he preys on underage girls. This doesn’t do anything to set up a rape scene.
There are few horror films that use rape effectively, one of those few being the 1974 classic, I Spit on Your Grave, and Megan is Missing is not even close to the greatness of that film. In this case, Goi uses rape merely as a scare tactic to show the “dangers of the Internet.” This a very serious act, and unless the movie sets it up so it makes sense within the narrative, this is merely a quick and easy way to shock your audience into getting the message that the Internet is terrifying.
Overall, Megan is Missing is a terrible excuse for a horror movie suffering from an insanely boring for the first hour, characters with little personality, a script begging to be completely rewritten and a terrible ending that mistakes overtly shocking imagery for genuine horror. Avoid at all costs, trust me.