Sunday, August 21, 2011

Megan Is Missing (2011)

 
Web of Deceit

There has been a recent surge in films that revolve around online hookups gone wrong. I had previously reviewed Trust which was an extremely realistic and uncomfortable drama that followed a young girl who is sexually violated by an adult man posing online as a teenager. Around the same time, I had heard talk of Michael Goi's Megan Is Missing, a movie that seemed to follow the same basic premise, but I neglected to check it out since I found Trust was about as unnerving as I could imagine a film about cyber predators to be. Thanks to my friends at The Horror Club and their surprisingly shocked review of the film's final act, I decided this was one I needed to see. While I still find Trust to be a more realistic approach to a real life problem that hurts both the victims and their families, Megan Is Missing provides a very stomach-churning look into the lives of modern teenagers and leaves the viewer with an ending that will likely stay in their head for days.

A very modern and vulgar cautionary tale, the film follows the titular Megan, a popular fourteen-year-old who embodies today's troubled youth. Though she means well, Megan lives a life of partying, drugs, carefree sex, and shallow friends who only exacerbate these vices. Megan's only salvation lies in her best friend Amy, who's been there for her since childhood. Amy is the the innocent, still-sleeps-with-stuffed-teddy-bears type of girl that Megan wishes she still were. But she's not and Amy is okay with that, as she accepts Megan for who she is, just like she always has. Though Amy isn't popular, Megan still manages to provide her with a pipeline into the cool group, though she's hardly accepted into it with open arms. When they're not hanging out together, Megan and Amy communicate through webcams, cellphones, and other video devices to keep in touch. Megan feels she may have found a true connection in the opposite sex when she's introduced to "skaterdude", a sixteen-year-old local in an internet chatroom. Though his webcam is conveniently broken, they still speak over the microphone and Megan feels she is being truly appreciated by a male for once. After deciding to meet up in person, Megan goes missing and Amy believes that her new online friend is behind it. Determined to find her best friend, Amy ends up in a life threatening situation when "skaterdude" becomes more than just a voice on a computer, but a real life psychopath.


The film falls into the ever-tiring "the footage you are about to see is real" genre, which I could do without because the actual cast is credited in the end of the film and anyone who has seen a "found footage" film knows better by now. Regardless, the film is intriguing on its own, utilizing web chats, video conferencing, and Amy's handy cam to piece together the story. The subject material isn't pretty. The characters in the film are fairly vile in their own youthful rights, which sees teenagers snorting coke in underground parties, engaging in various sexual acts, and talking about lewd situations like they were no big deal. This would be a bit overwhelming if I didn't personally know people who were like this when they were eighteen. Though I was in my early twenties at the time, I made friends with a handful of college freshmen who were already experienced in drugs and casual sex partners. Although I had never thought about why they were like that, this film made me sympathize with the callousness of today's youth who seem to be maturing earlier and earlier each year. Perhaps it's bad parenting, some sort of trauma, or a way to fit in, but it's a shitty deal when kids are scared to be kids these days.


The main reason I chose to review this movie, however, is because of the film's final act. The last "22 minutes" of the film are an uncensored and uncut look at the final footage found on Amy's camera. It's here where the film veers from a sordid drama into unbridled horror territory in the fashion of The Poughkeepsie Tapes. What you will see isn't for the squeamish. If you're not accustomed to horror or extreme situations, you may want to steer clear of this one. I'm a huge horror fan and I've seen it all, so it wasn't as difficult for me to watch the end of the film. Regardless, there were some images that truly haunted me, mainly when I reminded myself that the characters I'm seeing experience this terror are supposed to be thirteen and fourteen (although they're played by very talented and youthful twenty-somethings). There's no happy ending in this film and the final credits will likely fill you with a sense of sadness as it reminds you of the naivety and hope that many young girls believe in whether they're innocent or experienced.


I've seen many conversations revolving around whether or not teenagers should be shown this film as a learning experience, one specifically that had a user recommending that the writers of The Horror Club shoot themselves. One mother said she had sat her thirteen-year-old through it and was planning on doing the same for her twelve-year-old. I'm not a parent, so this all falls under your discretion, but I would personally not show this film to a young teenage girl. While there are elements that teens could relate to, I wouldn't want my young daughter hearing a lengthy conversation about "a huge cock" and "hot cum". Though this film uses these conversations to express how jaded teenagers have become, they're still discussed with a sense of excitement and pride, and I doubt many young girls would understand the subtext of these thoughts. I would, however, recommend Trust as learning experience due to how the film ultimately handles the situation through both the eyes of the victim as well as her parents.

I also thought it was worth mentioning that although it may be looked over by many viewers, Megan Is Missing also tackles the media's fixation on tragedy and their need for exaggerating fear and sensationalizing delicate situations in order to achieve higher ratings. It also manages to take a shot at the lack of coverage around cases involving missing minorities, as the public is generally aware of only abductions involving younger white women these days. Though this subtext doesn't make or break the film, it's nice to see someone using this medium to point out the faults in today's tabloid, ratings-hungry system.


When it boils down to it, Megan Is Missing is a very uncomfortable film with a far more uncomfortable ending. Horror fans may only find themselves drawn to the final twenty-two minutes, but those with a taste for the terrors of reality and today's youth may find the film to be a realistic depiction of what happens when children are allowed to roam free on the internet. Children used to be safe in their homes from predators. Now, anyone can become a victim from the comforts of their bedrooms. Whether or not the final twenty-two minutes seems exaggerated or exploitative in comparison to the rest of the movie, it should definitely be a wake-up call to parents watching at home with their children only a few feet away chatting with god-knows-who. Hey, it could happen to anyone, right?

3.5/5 Stars

16 comments:

  1. Thanks for your review. I think you have a very balanced perspective on the film and what I was trying to achieve. Although my intention wasn't to shock people into internet abstinence, I did want to point out that kids today know so much more about social networking technology than their parents do, and that's a real problem. And I'd prefer not to hear about another multiple sex offender being released from prison early for good behavior, then immediately killing some kid. If my movie wakes people up and makes them angry enough to change things, mission accomplished.
    Michael Goi
    Writer/director
    Megan Is Missing

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    1. I am an English Major, a network engineer, and a mother of 4 daughters: 17, 14, 11 & 8. I have always been as involved in my girls life as possible, my oldest daughter graduated top of her class and lives overseas. My youngest daughter is a gymnast, and my 11 yr old is a nerd golfer :). We are currently trying to get all 3 of our youngest girls their CCNAs.

      Megan Is Missing just made the hugest impact on my 14yr old and myself. My 14 yr old, like Megan was the victim of childhood sexual trauma. Being a victim of sexual trauma myself, I had done everything to prevent it. We didn't find out until our daughter was 13, and by this time she had spiraled out of control.

      We live in a nice suburb of North Texas. We moved here two years ago from Oregon, and when my then 6th grader came home from school talking about a ” train being run on another six grader” by these two boys, I was shocked.

      My daugher is currently on house arrest. She has ran away over 20 times. Running away in our house = she just flat walked out of the door. The courts will do nothing against run aways-as long as they are back in time for school and don't get caught breaking any other law the police can only give them a.ticket.

      With social media and wireless device access at the hands of every youth, it is nearly impossible to block them from it. Luckily for my daughter, one morning after she came home, I was taking the last of her things away and she bit me. This landed her in Juvi, house arrest and probation. She has turned around 180° because she is afraid to go to jail again, but accidently watching Megan Is Missing, instead of A Wrinkle in Time, was nothing more than a blessing.

      Although some may mock this movie. Kids are like this now. Not all kids, but a lot. Kids can be from any family demographic and fall into this category. Every moment of this movie was real to us because it felt like our life-with the exception of Megan's mom not being.supportive of her rape.

      Reading blogs and reviews of people mocking this movie makes me feel a little hopeful because those viewers CAN NOT relate. And they are lucky.

      Megan Is Missing was traumatic for both of us to watch. But it literally scared my daugher so much that she doesn't even want to go outside, and has asked that we both help each other stop our saturated social media (and frivolous cell phone) use.

      Thank You Michael,
      You will save a life with this movie.

      Lisa

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    2. I am a criminal psychology student in school to find a way to prevent people from growing up to be pedoohiles and/or violent sexual offenders/serial killers. I am also trying to find a way to restructure the justice system so that these predators never get released. I found your film very realistic and heartbreaking. Could you please tell me what specific cases you based the film off of so that I can study them more in depth for educational purposes? Thank you.

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  2. I definitely agree. I don't believe kids should have to abstain from the internet, but parents really need to keep up with what their children are doing. Buying 12-year-olds smartphones and giving even younger children full internet freedom without any reprecussions is a scary thing nowadays. I also think parents let technology teach their kids more than they do. I mean, hell...By the time my dad tried to give me "the sex talk", I already knew far more than I should have. But hey, at least i turned out okay! As a youth, I mostly used the internet to find obscure Nirvana lyrics and search for old horror movies on VHS. But that was just me and that was the the 90s. Things are much crazier and accessible now.

    Anyways, i really appreciate your comment and thanks for making this film! Let's hope more people see it and get the word out!

    --Andrew

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  3. I'm interested to know what cases the movie was based off of?

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    1. it is not baced on anything it is real

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  4. Well this movie is really horrifying. I like the way it is being presented. The message is clear. But I have to say this that parents MUST always have this "friendship" with their kids--constant communication & companionship. They MUST tell their children NOT TO TRUST STRANGERS,ESP PEOPLE IN THE INTERNET.I see thru this movie how really dangerous social networks are too. So PLEASE, if you love your children, let them feel this love so they wont be looking for it and end up in this demonic circumstances.

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  5. oh my god this stuff is horrible it makes me want to cry cant believe somebody would do something like this to such a little girl...

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  6. I want to say that at one point during the last 22 minutes, I was so utterly disturbed that I had to pause the movie. I have never felt like this before, and I've watched everything from the Saw franchise to the Exorcist and beyond. I felt so nauseous, as if I was going to pass out or something. I took a quick break and did end up finishing the film shortly after, and I want to thank the man who made the film. This was truly eye-opening, and will remain in my mind forever as a warning and an ultimatum to educate my (future) children about the dangerous of roaming free on the internet and letting your trust get the best of you.

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  7. I'm 51 years old,after watching this movie,it scared the heck out of me,but I would like to know if "Josh" got caught? I hope if he did the key was thrown away,even that slow death would be to good for him,some of my friends have even taken their children off twitter and facebook, this is really scarey stuff

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    1. I dont blame him.one bit,i cancled my fb after watching

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    1. it got them killed it is very dangorous to chat with people u dont know online. when your that age and i would never do anything that dumb and by the way the guy was never found and the 2 girls 1 of them were innocent and never did anyhting and the other on was not she did everything smoked drank and had sex. And if i where u i would blame him all the way for killing those girls. and if u where so scared of what would happen to u as a grown adult why wouldnt u blame him!!!!????

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  9. Why would u not blame him?? He was the only guy she talked to and was going to meet that day and once Amy blamed him he got mad and then she disappered that doesnt just happen. I blame him!! And things like this scare me because im am there age and i would not ever in my intire life to talk to some stranger online even if u can see wat they look like it is very dangerous and my parents taught me that stuff like tht is not good and only add people on facebook you know like friends from school or family members dont add people u dont know and if one of my friends was chatting with a guy they didnt know i would try to help them and not let them keep talking to him because things like this can happen and its very scary and i would die if anyone i care about died or went missing like this.!

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  10. This film. Is one of the only 3 things I have watched that made me cry, and become filled with anger at the same time. Like the one above me these girls are my age. I had classmates that smoked, drank, and had sex. They were nice kids but made the wrong choices. I hate rapists. I have uncle who raped my 15 year old cousin and only got 5 years. 5 FUCKING YEARS! What the fuck is that? They should get 30 years +. They ruined someones life. And they only get 5-12 years. I have cousin who was a thief, he got 15 years. Of course what he did was wrong but he never harmed someone physically, except for his fights in school. He got more than a rapist! I'm ashamed

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  11. This movie is not easy to watch, a buddy of mine said I should watch it , I did and HOLY S$#T I was mind fucked, Ive told two other friends of mine about it, after they watched they were both like "Thanks asshole, I did not have to see that" All inn all a great movie But be warned once you see it you wont forget it

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