TW: mention of sexual assault and violence
In the midst of lighthearted TikTok trends like Ratatouille: The Musical and Billie Eilish’s Therefore I Am, a much more controversial trend has erupted, traumatizing even the bravest of users.
Megan is Missing (2011) is a found-footage horror film directed by Michael Goi, told completely through webcams, video diaries, and newscasts. It centers on a 14-year-old girl who goes missing after meeting a man she met online and her best friend’s quest to find her.
Over the past few weeks, users have challenged themselves to watch this film, with many shutting it off and feeling sick to their stomach, due to its graphic depiction of violence and assault. Before TikTok, this film has already raised controversy, being banned in New Zealand upon its release. Goi has even taken to TikTok to warn users about the film, telling them to not watch it at night.
While this film has gained recognition for its traumatizing nature, its subpar writing, direction, and performances hold it back from being a truly memorable film.
Goi is a 59-year-old man and while that may not seem like a significant detail, it had a huge impact on the way this film was written. From the opening scene, Goi makes it quite apparent that he knows nothing about the lives of teen girls or the way they behave. The main protagonists, Megan (Rachel Quinn) and Amy (Amber Perkins), are written as stereotypical caricatures of teen girls, with little consideration for the fact that they might have personalities, goals, or even a conscience.
Despite having zero relevance to the plot of the film, Goi takes every chance he gets to hypersexualize the lives of Megan and Amy, viewing them through the infamous male gaze. During the kidnapping scenes, he does not stray away from depicting full-on torture and sexual assault, in which the victims are meant to be 13 and 14-years-old. This ultimately highlights the importance of women writing women, especially in the horror genre, which already widely subjects women to brutal violence and objectification.
Beyond this, the film also feels like a parody, especially when it comes to the performances by Quinn and Perkins. They are incredibly forced and overacted, which doesn’t translate well to normal cinema, let alone the cinéma vérité style of found footage. It’s hard to blame them, however, as it is largely the result of the poor script and direction on Goi’s part. The way news channels and authorities in the film also handle the kidnappings is so unrealistic it’s laughable, despite this film meaning to be educational.
Megan is Missing markets itself under the facade of a PSA, meant to teach teens about the dangers of the internet, despite being exploitative at best. With teens, the supposed audience of this film, not being able to handle its graphic depictions, it raises the question of who this film was really written for and truly serves.
While this film fails to deliver any sort of message beyond just the fact that the internet is bad, I know that I’ve learned one thing from watching this film – never trust TikTok recommendations.