Dir. Michael Goi (2011)
Two teens go missing, told entirely through found footage and news reports in this film inspired by a true story.
Warning: There are going to be some severe spoilers in this review, so if this isn't a film you've seen and you don't want to ruin the story, I'd check out the film first. I will also be keeping the screenshots in this review relatively tame, and I don't recommend looking for more if you have a weak stomach. For any who never get beyond this heading, please check out www.missingkids.com to find out what you can do to help exploited children in whatever ways you can.
Way back in 2020, during the Years of Light before the world was exposed to COVID and all of the shit that has come with it, Megan Is Missing had a resurgence in popularity following a TikTok trend that called it the most disturbing movie ever made. There are a hell of a lot of incredibly disturbing movies out there, so this was quite a bold claim, and while it would be difficult to make the case that this one is actually the most disturbing movie ever, it's a brutal and unflinching take on an unfortunately very real occurrence. Over 460,000 children go missing in the United States every year, a number that is often thrown out there to prove how pervasive the problem is but one that lacks any real context. Sure, those are the reported missing kids, but most of them are found well before anything bad happens. Some of those kids, however, will never be found, and we will never know if their story will wind up like this one.
Megan Stewart (Rachel Quinn) and Amy Herman (Amber Perkins) are two teenaged friends who could not be more different. Amy is a quiet kid who comes from a loving family, spoiled rotten by her dad and unwilling to participate in a lot of the unbecoming behavior of her peers. Megan has lived a rough life, with a mother who communicates through screaming and a stepdad in prison for molesting her. She is a partygoer, a girl who is deep into the sex and drugs subculture of "today's youth." When Megan goes missing after going to see a man she met online, Amy does her best to rally the community and investigate the disappearance herself, determined to find out what happened to her best friend. Unfortunately, sometimes when you go looking for something, you find it.
Known for it's chilling final sequence, Megan Is Missing is just as disturbing as you've heard. It's a competently made found footage movie, utilizing a number of different tactics to keep the visuals looking like cam footage or news clips and rarely feeling like it's out of its element. The actors, likewise, do a fine job, especially Quinn and Perkins. The story itself is terrifying, literally any parent's worst nightmare, and it tells the tale in an unflinching style that becomes increasingly hard to watch as the film finds its gut-wrenching and devastating finale in some of the worst places imaginable. The plights of Megan and Amy are inevitable, and the film does a phenomenal job of portraying the events on-screen as hopeless as possible while continually reminding its audience that this is a fate that has actually happened to children in our society.
The movie has shortcomings, of course. It's relatively amateurish, though that does serve some of the purpose of being about regular people going through this horrific experience. Some of the actors are lackluster, actual teenagers (or at least appearing to be so) who clearly don't have the talent level of an A-list production. It's also a bit on the nose and perhaps too gratuitous, though I could also see the argument that flinching away from what has been the reality for so many missing children could have missed the point entirely if the filmmakers weren't careful. Focusing on the teenagers' partying ways could be argued as holding them accountable for their own fates, a perspective that could very well feel disrespectful to actual missing children.
Of course, fearmongering about the aforementioned "youth of today" is not an uncommon tool in Hollywood's belt, and it does help to cement Megan's story of a girl who never had a chance in the first place. One of the most interesting pieces of the film, however, is the dichotomy between Megan and Amy, two different people who eventually befall the same fate. Megan parties, does drugs, has sex, and is a "bad" teen, and despite being her almost polar opposite, Amy still winds up in the barrel. In that way, it strays from a lot of the "bad girl" tropes that horror is famous for, despite spending a good bit of it's earlier runtime reinforcing those stereotypes. There is also a blink-and-you'll-miss-it commentary on the disparity of news coverage between suburban white girls who go missing and the stories about minorities who are abducted, and the film unsubtly digs into the media's exploitation of these cases as well.
For all of its faults, the ending of the film is masterfully done. It's extremely difficult to watch, and while the whole thing is a relatively bloodless affair, it still very much feels like torture porn. It would be easy to reference the final reveal of Megan in the barrel, as it would be to focus on the degradation and torture of Amy. It is the final scene, however, that will stick in your craw. The burial scene is one of the most tense and horrifying things I have ever seen on film, and if you frequent this site, you know that's saying a lot. The slow dampening and eventual disappearance of Amy's cries for help, her begging and bargaining being ignored by her captor and he slowly and methodically buries her alive is heartbreaking and devastating. It's perfectly done horror, and it's a scene that doesn't get nearly the attention it deserves. While the film might not strike a cord with every member of its audience, this scene in particular is one that should go down in horror history books.
Who this movie is for: Disturbing movie fans, True crime lovers, Parents
Bottom line: Megan Is Missing is once again trending on TikTok, introducing and entirely new audience to one of the more disturbing movies in the last couple of decades. It won't be everyone's cup of tea, of course, and there will be many who find its message to be a bit too on the nose for their taste. Nonetheless, it is a haunting and hard-to-watch film that completely sticks the landing. If you can stomach the more difficult scenes and you don't mind overlooking a little bit of amateurish acting, I definitely recommend checking this one out, and it's on Amazon Prime for rent right now. I also would be remiss if I don't mention the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, one of my pet causes that rightly receives attention for the amazing work that they do but still deserves more. You can check out their website at www.missingkids.org, and if you're someone who has the ability to donate to their cause, you should absolutely do so.