Megan and Amy are best friends. They share secrets. They chat with guys online. And in a few days, they will never be seen again.
Welcome to Knockout Horror and to a Horror Movie Review. Today we are taking a look at another Screenlife Horror Movie. One that actually managed to find itself banned in New Zealand. The movie in question? Megan is missing. This is a huge review and I rant a lot. Feel free to use the navigation menu to skip to the tea.
So I will quickly sum up the plot of this movie before we start. Megan is Missing follows the stories of friends Megan and Amy. Megan is a young girl that has suffered significant abuse during her life. Living with her mother, the pair have a strained relationship. On the other hand, her best friend Amy is the opposite. Shy and awkward around peers. Amy lives in a large house and has a positive relationship with her parents.
Amy and Megan couldn’t be more different. When Megan meets a fellow high school student online. They aim to meet. Only, Megan never makes it to the meeting. Vanishing on the way. Amy is determined to find out what happened. Despite never realising the danger she, herself, is in.
So if you have checked out any of my recent reviews. You may notice a fair number of them fall under the screenlife horror banner. This is something I have been deliberately focusing on, as of late. Also known as Computer Screen Horror. Screenlife horror acts as something of a spin off from found footage. Instead of being filmed by characters holding video cameras or phones. It is filmed through the eyes of a webcam. Events are often presented with a computer screen overlay. With interactions typically taking place over video chat apps or instant messenger services.
The most notable progenitor of this style of horror movie was The Collingswood Story. Filmed in the early 2000s. The Collingswood Story jumped on the back of notable horror hit The Blair Witch Project. Taking a low budget approach to filmmaking and creating something fairly effective. We enjoyed it quite a bit though it very much feels its age in 2023. It took a little while for the screenlife style to come around again. It is widely considered to be Timur Bekmambetov. And his fairly unique horror Unfriended that got the ball rolling in 2014.
Unfriended showed that the screenlife style could translate to mainstream filmmaking. The resulting sequel, Unfriended: Dark Web, reinforced this idea a few years later. Since then, computer screen horror has been something that has popped up frequently. Host hit the market during the 2020 lockdown and was a mega hit. Ghost Webcam tries and fails to do something with the style. Deadstream successfully blended screenlife with found footage for something truly fresh. And the thriller movie Searching came along in 2018. Proving that screenlife could fit just as well outside the horror genre.
Despite how prolific Bekmambetov has been with screenlife horror. Having produced Unfriended, Unfriended: Dark Web, Searching and Missing. He did fall just a little short of being the first to revive the genre. The Den (Hacked) actually preceded it by a year. But it was this horror movie we are looking at today that deserves that recognition.
Megan Is Missing utilised screenlife at a time when it was all but forgotten. Presenting the subject of the dangers of social media and online interactions. In perhaps the best way it possibly could. Through the lens of a webcam. Now, being honest, this is about as far as I will go with my praise of this movie. Megan is Missing is an awful movie in so many ways. But I won’t take away from the presentation. It was innovative and incredibly fitting given the subject matter.
Social Media is an incredibly common theme in horror movies nowadays. In fact, we have recently published a list about this very subject. Social Media is such a deeply ingrained part of most people’s everyday life. It is impossible to ignore it as a subject of horror. Whether it is used to illustrate the dangers of the web. Or simply used to lampoon viewer’s obsessions with influencers. Social media is a topic ripe for the picking when it comes to horror.
Megan is Missing approached the subject of Social Media when it was still relatively new. Of course, Facebook and Twitter were around by the time of this movie’s release. But they weren’t as impactful as they are today. Something that was impactful, however, was instant messaging services.
Megan is Missing puts the spotlight on the very real threat of predators online. Reinforcing the disturbing fact that you do not actually know who is on the other side of the monitor. Its a poignant message and still feels incredibly timely today. There are predators out there and they are all too willing to take advantage. Striking at those innocent enough to believe the things people tell them.
It’s not too surprising, given the timely message here. That Megan Is Missing recently experienced a resurgence in interest. Clips of the movie surfaced on TikTok and gained some serious traction. This lead director Michael Goi to, cleverly, warn people about the movie. Claiming it may cause upset due to its shocking nature. A very smart decision! Especially given the opportunity to kick up some old fashioned, shock value, popularity.
The truth is, we live in an age now that is far more aware of predators online. People have heard the stories. They have seen the cases on the news. They likely even know of people this has happened to. This is a generation with an inbuilt fear of the faceless person behind the camera. The word “Catfish” has made its way into the popular zeitgeist. Even at its most innocuous. The idea of people pretending to be something they are not is disturbing.
Megan is Missing resonates with people. It tells a story that has been told in school cafeterias. Shared quietly between children as a cautionary tale. It is the articles you read on the news put to flesh. Tapping into something very real that all young people should be concerned about. It is, actually, far more effective now than it was a decade ago. It is the equivalent of the world realising that Jason Vorhees or Freddy Kruger is real. Megan is Missing features a boogeyman that is very much alive. Waiting for the next unsuspecting victim to enter their chat.
A bold statement, right? One of my most hated horror movies? That seems a little harsh, doesn’t it? Well, I am obviously talking from my own perspective here. Every review on here is subjective. I always aim to review movies conversationally. As if we are chatting to each other about a film. All scores and opinions are my own. If I don’t like a movie but I think it has merit, I will say so. I am not the world’s biggest fan of Midsommar or Hereditary. But I recognise that they are, technically, great films and my scores reflect that.
Megan is Missing is one of those rare horror films that I think is without merit. From an acting perspective, a direction perspective and a story perspective. The only positive thing I can say about this movie is that the message is important. I don’t actually believe that this movie was made to get that message across, though. I think the message is a biproduct of the director’s real intentions.
My partner and I actually attempted to watch this movie some ten years ago. We didn’t even make it half way through. We got about a third of the way in before turning it off. At the time, I believed it was simply a bad film. The awful writing, terrible interactions and unlikable cast made it a tough watch. Watching it again for this review. It is so much worse than I actually ever realised. And for more reasons than just the technical ones. Let’s talk about them first, though.
Megan is Missing’s plot is extremely basic. Girl has a rough childhood, meets guy online, girl goes missing. It’s very simple stuff. There is no character development, no plot building and no nuance. The story is padded out with misogynistic interpretations of what girls get up to as teens. Depicting them partying. As well as selling sexual services for drugs and doing whatever boys ask them to do. Everything here is presented as bluntly as you can possibly imagine. As if written by a man that spends far too much time engaging in incel communities.
The only character that doesn’t follow this set archetype is bullied heavily. Spending the movie being called fat and ugly. Despite being a healthy weight and, frankly, beautiful. She is ostracised for not following the same path as the other girls. And blamed for much of what happens in the movie. It is, frankly, a fairly offensive portrayal of young girls as a whole. Causing offense is something this movie is all too familiar with.
Everything that happens here is without purpose. There is no reason to depict the characters in the way they are depicted. It doesn’t flesh out the story or offer additional explanation for the events that take place. Anyone is susceptible to online predators. It doesn’t matter if you have had a traumatic childhood or not. Megan could be, literally, anyone. It just so happens that Goi chose to portray her, and many of the other girls, negatively.
And that is at the helm of many of this movie’s issues. This could have been a twenty minute short. The meat of the movie is over so quickly. It is the way that Goi decided to flesh the story out that I have a problem with. It is filled with scenes purely there to titillate the director. When Goi isn’t portraying girls as objects willing to swap their bodies for favours. He is portraying male characters as charismatic party hosts and cool surfer boys. It is incredibly insulting movie making and deserves tremendous scorn.
Michael Goi both directed and wrote Megan is Missing. His writing leaves much to be desired. Who would have thought that a, at the time, 52 year old man. Would struggle to write nuanced and relatable teen girl characters? Lines feel awkward and, at times, hilariously out of place. Repeatedly conjuring up feelings of “nobody talks like this”.
It gets even worse when we are introduced to Josh. Who manages to seduce our protagonist. Using only the type of patter that would make even Twilight fans roll their eyes. Sorry Twilight fans, not meaning for you people to catch strays. But you know it is a poorly written series, right? You can still enjoy it! It’s a lot better than Megan is Missing, I am sure.
The only time Goi attempts to show his writing chops. Is when he goes into vulgar levels of detail about the oral rape of a minor. Something we will go into in just a bit. It’s terrible stuff and utterly embarrassing at times. Girls don’t talk like this. Women don’t talk like this and teens don’t talk like this. All of this is without getting into the ridiculous plot holes. Some of which impact the plot in huge ways. Much of what happens here makes no sense at all. Crucial plot devices are so poorly formulated. They defy all logic, despite being crucial to the story’s progression. It provokes consistent eye rolling from start to finish.
Goi’s direction is lacking throughout. He spends far too much time indulging in pointless scenes that go nowhere. Eager to pad out the movie in any way possible. So much of Megan is Missing feels out of touch. As if it has been directed by someone who has no idea how teens act. Taking the most ridiculous bullshit reddit frat boy stories and putting them to film.
A party scene feels like water torture for how long it goes on. Hammering the viewer with pure undistilled awkwardness. All while the shot bounces lazily from character to character. Goi has no idea how to push the story forward. Instead choosing to engage in repetition throughout the film. Clumsily obsessing over single shots. Likely patting himself on the ass while they play out. Congratulating himself for how impactful they are. How this man continued to direct movies is beyond me.
I feel bad taking pot shots at the acting here. The vast majority of the actors were minors. Michael Goi, clearly, couldn’t direct piss into a bucket so they didn’t have much to work with. But, for the most part, acting here is awful. Rachel Quinn, as Megan, and Amber Perkins, as Amy, really try. They are working with a terrible script and an awful director. They really do the absolute best with everything they have. Amber Perkins does a fantastic job towards the end. Committing far more to the movie than she ever should have.
Quinn does a good job showing the two sides of Megan. Highlighting the impact of childhood abuse as best as she can. Again, this is a poorly written movie. She is trying to make sugar out of shit. The rest of the cast is utterly terrible. Literally everyone sucks. It’s not worth going into specifics but there is not a single person of note.
It bears mention here that Quinn and Perkins had a terrible time on this shoot. Some of the stuff I am about to say may be considered spoilers. To be frank, I couldn’t give a toss because it needs to be said. I really feel for the girls that worked on this shoot. Now I have to mention. Their parents were on set but that isn’t really the point. For one particular scene. Quinn was brought to tears when shown pictures of BDSM. As well as being left horribly uncomfortable and in pain when placed in said bondage device.
Perkins was also made to film a horribly traumatic scene multiple times. Resulting in her being legitimately upset. When told that the scene would need to be filmed again. Dean Waite, who played Josh, became frustrated and angry. At least someone here had some decency. This was a bad shoot for two very young girls. All fronted by an old man that demanded too much from them. Purely so he could portray certain scenes perfectly to his liking.
I want you to keep something in mind when you watch this movie. Rachel Quinn was born in 1993. This movie was shot in 2006. She was 13-14 at the time this movie was made. Goi was completely okay with putting a 13-14 year old girl in a BDSM torture device. Actually putting her in it. While wearing virtually nothing. He was completely okay filming a protracted rape scene with a 16 year old. Multiple times purely to get it right. He was totally fine with having a 13 year old girl. Painstakingly describe her oral rape at the age of ten almost enthusiastically.
Goi puts no effort into the vast majority of what happens in this movie. He half arses every single last part of it. With the exception of each and every sexual scene. Megan talks about being abused for a number of minutes. Going into detail that is beyond excessive and does nothing to further the plot. A supposedly 14 year old character is raped for over three minutes. Complete with needless touches like the character’s hand being covered in blood. Indicating that she was a virgin.
In my eyes. Megan is Missing is not disturbing because of its subject matter. We all know how dangerous online predators are. It is a subject that deserves attention. But the really disturbing thing about Megan is Missing. Is that an old man was allowed to assemble a skeleton production crew. Give jobs to a bunch of non-actor minors. And demand that they talk about childhood abuse. Depict graphic scenes of rape. Wear next to nothing while strapped into BDSM torture devices. And have cold water thrown on them while wearing only underwear.
Megan is Missing frequently goes beyond what is required to tell a story. On top of that, Goi goes out of his way to present these characters in an overtly sexual manner. Attempting to numb the viewer’s sense of sympathy. None of these elements add anything to the movie. We don’t need to see a child. Yes, a CHILD. Strapped into a BDSM torture device to be disturbed. We don’t need to see a minor react to being raped. The only person who ever needed to see that was Michael Goi.
The New Zealand Film Board banned Megan is Missing. Saying “It relished in the spectacle of one girl’s ordeal. Including a three-minute rape scene”. While also claiming it sexualized the lives of young teenage girls. In fact, to a “highly exploitative degree”. Something I couldn’t agree with more. This movie should be a disturbing examination of childhood abuse. Highlighting the secrecy of teens. The tendency of abuse victims to try to rationalise their abuse. The fear they feel and their inability to talk about it. Instead, it pushes all of that to one side. Instead content to basically laugh at the victims. All while sexualising the traumatic events throughout.
Let’s imagine Megan is Missing was a horror movie with no controversy. Let’s pretend that Goi didn’t film scenes that indulge in the rape of a minor. And that he didn’t have a 13 year old girl painstakingly describe oral rape. He didn’t put her in a BDSM torture device. Let’s pretend that Megan is Missing is just a normal movie. If that were the case. It would simply be a bad screenlife horror. Poorly directed, terribly written and quickly forgotten. No scares, bad acting and a poorly delivered message about online safety.
But that isn’t the case. Instead, it is a movie that is offensively bad and disturbing for all the wrong reasons. Megan is Missing exploits its young actors. Asking them to put to film things they should never have to do. It is misogynistic in its portrayal of young girls. All while depicting male characters as charismatic and fun. It is terribly written with no nuance and no depth. Goi’s writing only deepens when he is having an underage character talk about sex. It features pointlessly long scenes that greedily rob the viewer’s time. Shamelessly padding out what is, essentially, a thread bare story. It has more problems than I can actually point out. Megan is Missing is one of the worst horror movies I have ever seen.
You never really want to get too invested when you review a movie. It’s just entertainment, after all. You need to stay objective and review from a place of neutrality. I really struggle with that with Megan is Missing. Don’t get me wrong, I think it sucks as a movie. But, beyond that, it is a rather troubling production. Young actors were placed in positions they should never have been placed in. Young girls were depicted in ways that are tremendously harmful. The message here is secondary to the indulgence in sexuality.
If I am being honest. I can’t help but question whether the writer has questionable motives. I am sure some people would probably say I am too easily disturbed. Perhaps that I am being unfair? Yeah! Cope harder mother fucker. I have watched thousands of horror movies. Horror doesn’t ever disturb me anymore. Does horror ever disturb anyone who has watched a lot of it? Of course not! It’s part of why I started this site. Let’s find movies that are actually effective. This is not one of them. Fuck Michael Goi for putting his young actors through this awful shit show of a film.