Saturday, January 14, 2012

Megan is Missing

Megan is Missing
Megan is Missing
I went into Megan is Missing with basically no prior information on the story. I did know that it dealt with child abduction in some way but little more.  I had heard from friends that it wasn't worth the time and from other friends it was a must see film.

Honestly, after watching it myself, I have to say it falls somewhere in between.  It isn't trash, but I don't know if I would call it a classic just yet.  It's powerful film, with a powerful message, unfortunately it also has some powerful flaws.  Those flaws unfortunately lend to the power of the film, but they still are flaws in my opinion.

Megan is Missing is a disturbing film, some have said the most disturbing film of all time.  I think a lot of the disturbing quality will come from how closely you identify with the characters.  Mothers with teen daughters will be very disturbed, all parents will be bothered.  In all honestly, mothers with weak hearts should maybe pass on Megan is Missing. Which is a problem with the film.  Many of the people who will be the most moved, won't be able to handle it.

Despite what the title might lead you to believe Megan is Missing deals with not just Megan's disappearance but also that of her best friend Amy.  Amy and Megan are teenage best friends and seemingly polar opposites.  Unlike most odd couple pairings in films, their friendship comes off as real and unforced. Megan is the cool popular teen, while Amy is a bit of a wall flower.  Through online chat rooms, Megan makes friends with an unknown boy, arranging a date and goes missing.  After Amy goes to the police with what she knows, she too goes missing.  Shortly after we find out what happened and descend into what could be the darkest 22 minutes ever filmed.  I will go into those 22 minutes so anyone wishing to avoid a full spoiler can do so.

For the most part Megan is Missing can be described as a  "found footage" film along the lines of The Blair Witch Project or Cloverfield.  The film quality is better than either of these and there are few if any instances of shaky cam filming though.  The majority of the film, at least up to the last 22 minutes, are composed of alleged web cam footage, mixed in with police tapes, news footage, and the girls video diaries.  The quality is excellent for this type of film, and my head is glad there was no bouncing footage to bring on a migraine.

As I started watching I had a problem with the girls acting and dialogue, but as I got into the film it sank in that this was what I should be seeing and hearing.  This wasn't a high dollar A list film.  This was supposed to be two teenage girls "acting" for the cam.  When chatting with friends the dialogue and acting was believe able.  When they were hamming it up for their video camera, it was more stiff and unbelievable.  The type of script two teens would come up with.

There are several of those moments in Megan is Missing.  Moments where at first you think "this is stupid" then realize, "No this could really happen."  One of those big moments was when we "meet" Josh. His dialogue screams PREDATOR, but the girls fall for it.  Crazy right?  Not if you have spent any time around young girls.  Teen girls are way too trusting.  The fact that this film is based on several accounts of real  abductions lends weight to it.  Don't believe me?  Just check out Facebook, see how many teen girls have their phone numbers listed.  Maybe not every teen girl would fall for Josh's lines, but many would.

The treatment of Amy by Megan's other friends also seems exaggerated at first.  She is totally rejected  by the other students and verbally abused, even blamed for Megan's disappearance,  but believe it couldn't happen?  Bullying is rampant in America.  Kids are bullied to the point of suicide. Amy's plight is unfortunately, way to real.

The characters of Megan and Amy were both fleshed out more than typical teen characters.  Megan is more than just the oversexed party girl she first appears.  She genuinely cares for Amy and puts her own social standing at risk for her.  The film makers give us a glimpse into why she acts the way she does, and once again, it's all too real.  It might be a bit of a cliche but it  works and adds another layer of depth to the character.

Most of the other characters in the film are one dimensional, almost silhouettes . This doesn't detract from the movie, but like a photographer blurring the background, keeps the focus squarely on Megan and Amy.  Josh in fact is never fully seen, and in fact we never know for sure if "Josh" is even the one responsible.  We ate strongly led to believe that he is the culprit but I could make a case that it isn't.  We never see his face, and until the last 22 minutes never see any part of him.  There is a blurry image on a security camera of a man who is assumed to be Josh, but we never know for sure.

Which brings us to probably the most disturbing, most controversial part of the film.  The final 22 minutes.  The onscreen caption declares it as the final 22 minutes of tape on Amy's video camera, uncut and unedited.  While watching this, I checked my clock several times, wishing it was almost over.

 I think the director decided to go for reality more than good film making at this point.  There was a point, in the last half of those 22 minutes, where it just seemed to keep going with no real purpose, except that it took that long to happen.  After the initial shock wears off  I just got tired of watching it, and I admit it was bothering me.    I also admit I sped the movie up, stopping occasionally to make sure I missed nothing.

 It was basically ten minutes or so of the same thing.  Boring one part of my mind, disturbing the other.  If I had not been told at the beginning of the film that the two girls had never been found, perhaps I could have held more interest, more tension, hoping for that eventual rescue.  That was how I watched Martyrs.  During the incessant torture there, I kept hoping Ana would escape somehow.  In Megan is Missing, I knew what was coming at the end.  I just didn't know how I would be taken there.  While for me this was a bit of a hindrance I can see most viewers sitting shocked through the whole ordeal.  I can also see a lot of people not able to take it and switching the film off.  Honestly if I was the director I wouldn't mind people switching off, it just proves how powerful it was. 
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Now for spoilers****************************************The Last 22 minutes**********
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The last 22 minutes document exactly what happened to Amy.  Kidnapped by the same person who had kidnapped Megan, Amy is locked away in what appears to be a basement.  She is forced to eat what appears to be dog food (without using your hands).  Some point later she is taken out of her cell and viciously raped.  I will say this is probably the most vicious rape I have ever seen ion film, and yes I have seen irreversible.  The director does this with no graphic gore or nudity.  Instead we see a closeup of Amy's face in camera as she is violently raped. You can tell what is happening but all you can focus on is Amy's face.  The baby rape in A Serbian Film looks like a cartoon compared to this.  This is real, or as real as I ever want to see on film.

As disturbing as this is it's the end that will probably haunt people the most.  I didn't time it, and it seemed to go on forever, but I'd estimate 10 minutes or so is pure torture (no better word)for the viewer.  Amy is forced into a barrel with Megan's corpse and it is sealed shut.  The camera is placed on the ground and we watch as Josh digs what is to become their grave.  All the while we hear Amy cry and beg for her life.  We know how it's going to end and after what seems an eternity it does.

The movie has been condemned for it's disturbing content among other things. I have heard complaints that it glorifies teen sex, that it unreasonably scares parents, and presents and unrealistic portrait of teen life.  The film is disturbing, I wont argue that point, but unlike many shocking films it is practically gore free.

The gore is so scarce that the few, well timed moments of visceral horror really take you by surprise.  When we see Megan's corpse it was like a slap in the face.  It only on screen for a fraction of a second, but that was enough, in fact it was brilliant.  Not long enough to look for the effects, but long enough to sear in your brain.  Then the horror of knowing Amy was locked into the barrel with the decomposing body of her best friend, was almost unbearable.

As to it's effects on parents, I might also reluctantly agree, to a point anyway.  I do think that parents should be more aware of their kids Internet activity.  There really are "Josh's" out there, as well as a multitude of other predators, some worse than others.  However we can't go to the point of locking our children  away in towers, and I see many children facing stricter curfews after their parents watch Megan is Missing.  Hopefully parents will also take note of what ultimately drove Megan down the path she took.  While a dysfunctional family doesn't guarantee a bad end, it definitely weighs the odds toward it.

Anyone who thinks the portrayal of teens is off, honestly doesn't know teens.  In fact I think they made a direct hit.  One thing that caught my eye was the way Amy was handled.  As the ugly duckling in the friendship she barely exists to those around her.  It's as if the film makers are confirming that  in the teenagers world, she isn't as important as Megan.  Even after her disappearance, all the focus is on Megan.   Megan's name is in the title and on the lips of everyone discussing the film, yet it is Amy who's torture we are forced to endure.

Megan is the name on everyone's lips when discussing the film, and I'm sure a lot of people will associate the torture with Megan.  In our heads Megan is who is getting tortured.  It's like the director is forcing us to face the fact that girls like Amy aren't as important to us.  As much as we rail and storm at the evil bullies who abuse those who are different, we are all guilty of being drawn to the beautiful people.

Or maybe I"m way off base.

So my opinion?  While technically it might not be a great film, it packs a wallop.  It paints an all too real, all too scary picture, and accomplishes what the director intended.  It scares the shit out of parents.  While I will say this definitely qualifies as a horror film. a lot of horror films might find it slow and boring.  I found the burial scene both disturbing, and well not boring but tedious.  I admit I fast forwarded though it.  The film is basically gore free which will make it more accessible to a wide audience but will turn off some hardcore gore fans, as well as  fans of Saw and Hostel.  That part is a shame because this movie will actually scare them.  In many ways Megan is Missing has brought fear back into a largely neutered genre.

Do yourself a favor (if you can call it that) and check out Megan is Missing.  Just be prepared to be disturbed.

4 comments:

  1. Not a movie you can love, but yeah you also can't deny its heavy power. Harsh and imperfect but I'm glad I saw it.

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  2. Thanks for your review of my movie. Amy was definitely a neglected character in the media hype, as was the black child on the news. One of the points I was making in the movie is that cute, white girls get a lot of media attention, and others do not. Almost 40% of abducted children are boys, mostly black or Hispanic. We hardly see any of their cases on TV. I hope my movie makes people aware that the best solution to the problem of internet predators is to be good, responsible parents. We should teach our children good online habits, because they will find a way to get on the internet no matter what. Communication and love works wonders.

    Michael Goi

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  3. Thanks for the kind comments Michael. If I had ever thought the director would be reading my review I would have used spell check

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  4. That movive makes teenagers like me more aware of the dangers online and that everyone is not who the might say they be.It also scared my mother and made her think what could I be possibly doing on my laptop and who I may be talking to.Thank you for the review as I could not bare to watch the last 20 minutes as I also skipped alot.I missed the part were she was next to her bestfriend and that she was brutally raped this is a horrible story,but it honestly makes people think...So really honestly thank you for the review it made me see deeper into the movie.

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