Ginger Nuts of Horror
Come on in, the water's deplorable...
Megan is Missing (2011)
Michael Goi, USA
Welcome back to Film Gutter, and today the water is deceptive as we wade into what looks like beautiful, clear waters with Megan is Missing. It's an interesting entry in the series, and I went back and forth on whether to include it as part of Film Gutter, but I struggle to think of something in recent memory that has left me quite this harrowed and upset at the end of its run time. Don't be fooled by this movie – there might be more extreme films visually out there, but this packs an undoubted punch.
The plot of Megan is Missing is relatively simple, although it is really interestingly delivered. Megan and Amy are best friends, both 14 years old, with Megan being vivacious and outgoing and Amy being shy, retiring and self-conscious. Megan's other friends don't really understand why she likes Amy, but it's clear their friendship has far more depth to it than the vacuous partying she does with her other schoolmates. Most of the film is shot three ways – one via online webcam conversation, the other on mobile phone videochat, and the third through the lens of Amy's video camera, a gift for her 14th birthday.
In a sense Megan isn't really the lead, despite the title. She's omnipresent in the first half of the film, as the most popular girl in school and her outrageous antics certainly make her popular with the guys at school. We find out more about the past that leads to this kind of behaviour on her part as the story wears on, but Amy is probably the person whose eyes we see most of the story through. And when Megan meets Josh online – a mysterious and shy stranger she is introduced to – they develop a relationship. Megan goes to meet Josh for the first time, and is never seen again.
From there we follow the attempts to find Megan, partly by police and media and in no small part by Amy, who tries to retrace her friend's steps through her video diary. The first hour of the film is intriguing, without doubt, and the characters are well-drawn and built through strong and convincing dialogue. There's a lot to like in that opening 60 minutes, but there's nothing terribly shocking, apart from a couple of unsettling images were are exposed to. The paucity of the relationships Megan has with anyone other than Amy – even her own mother – are ruthlessly exposed once she has disappeared, and the media angle is also presented in a fascinating way.
I'm going to try and avoid being too spoilery, but I've never seen a movie shift gear so quickly and effectively since my first viewing of Audition. The last 20 minutes of the movie are in stark contrast to the softer shock beforehand, and I have to say left me genuinely distraught. That was probably in no small part because I was totally unprepared for it, so you can consider yourself forewarned and forearmed after reading this review. But if there's a more powerful 20 minutes of cinema than that, then I have yet to see. It was absolutely crushing, gutwrenching and heart-rending to watch.
I was surprised at just how much this film affected me – the look of it reminded me of the dreadfully heavy-handed Chaos, and there's no secret to the message here either – do the parents out there really know what their kids are doing online, and are kids taking all the precautions that they need to? But while Chaos felt hammy and overplayed, Megan is Missing was any amount more effective for its subtle approach and very clever pacing. If you're after a real gorefest, then there are any number of films out there better for you. If you want to see something seriously impactful and disturbing, then Megan is Missing is going to be hard to beat.
RATING: 9.5/10. Another stunningly high rating, because this one had great filmic qualities beyond being shocking and disturbing. The acting was strong, the characters were believable, the style and feel of it made it seem all the more realistic and the finale absolutely knocked me for six. Seriously, I was so down all afternoon after watching this one – you might want to clear a few hours for recovery afterwards if you do intend to watch this one. And forget about what the kids are up to, you can bet I won't be talking
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