I have no idea how or why things “go viral” but, when it happens, it creates a new kind of life for whatever it is that’s trending. Despite the recent surge in popularity thanks to TikTok, Megan is Missing takes an incredibly exploitative approach. Masquerading as a factual warning about the risk of predatory violence facing teen girls, it collapses under its shoddy found-footage presentation, meandering direction, and poor performances.
Despite disclaimers at the beginning of this movie, this is NOT “based on a true story.” This is NOT actual found-footage. The whole phony presentation as “real” is submarined by the general lack of technological ability at that time. Even with the internet being widely available in 2007, and more accessible to younger teens, the presentation of a widely video-recorded life doesn’t ring true at all as it would now with social media. The acting isn’t nearly good enough to pull it off either and I feel bad saying so because Amber Perkins and Rachel Quinn, who play the lead roles, put themselves in an incredibly vulnerable position for this movie. However, the weaknesses in their performances are amplified by the filming style and the movie relies on them too heavily.
Michael Goi wrote, directed, co-produced, and edited this movie which is a commendable achievement in its way, but another set of eyes and ears would have been helpful. He has defended the movie as a cautionary tale about the dangers of online interactions that lead to violence against young girls. However, casting 16-to-17-year-old girls to play down in age 3-4 years for the sheer shock value of his hyper-sexualization of them is about as exploitative as you can get. It’s easy to see the girls aren’t actually 13, but the implications he puts forth are his responsibility. And, the nature of the explicit sexual violence shown and described throughout the movie is seemingly unnerving just for the sake of it.
If you were to extend Goi the benefit of the doubt, in regards to his reasoning behind making the movie, it does caution parents about their kids’ presence online and the inherent vulnerability of communicating through the internet. However, it’s not presented as a look at the pain or experience of the parents whose children have gone missing but rather through the sheer brutality of the violent acts that may be committed against those kids. The last 20+ minutes is difficult to watch for that very reason and if your goal is to have some kind of informative dialogue, having viewers turn away or stop watching due to the intense psychological torture and sexual violence against young girls defeats the purpose.
I’m not one to think a movie should be banned, as this one was in New Zealand, but it’s more than fair to put Goi in the spotlight and take aim at his supposed artistic position. Under scrutiny, it’s pretty easy to see that his justification can’t tread water for very long.
Recommendation: Even though I think it’s free to watch somewhere on the internet right now, don’t take your social cues from TikTok, and don’t waste your time watching this movie…unless you are filled with morbid curiosity.