Judge Daryl Loomis wishes this disc had been missing from the box.
What did you do to Megan?
As a horror fan and concerned citizen, films like Megan Is Missing really stick in my craw. The way the film is presented and the endorsement on the box may lead naive browsers to believe it is an important strike in the fight against online predators and child abduction. Instead, the film is an exploitative piece of trash masquerading as a public service announcement. Some viewers may be shocked at the language and imagery in these ninety minutes that I'll never get back, but for reasons contrary to the expressed intent.
We find this out up front, so no spoilers here. On January 14, 2007, a girl named Megan Stewart (Rachel Quinn) disappeared; three weeks later, so did Amy Herman (Amber Perkins), her best friend. The preceding weeks were pieced together from video and webcams, surveillance footage, and news reports to try to give a sense of what happened to these two girls. What unfolds will shock and disturb you (or so they claim).
If it were just some regular stupid found footage horror flick, Megan Is Missing wouldn't have made me near so mad, but I really hate the arrogance that comes with somebody who thinks their crappy little movie will change society. It's even worse that director Michael Goi's delivery method for his "important" message is the bald-faced exploitation of little girls. Without the delusions of grandeur and gross sexual violence, the movie would still be pretty poor, but with them it's repugnant.
The film starts out realistically as we get to know the girls and their nasty friends. They party, take drugs, have sex, and generally act like irritating teenagers. Unless you're really hankering for a modern day Kids, it's all pretty boring. Eventually, Goi gets away from all of this and moves into less believable and, shockingly, even more boring Blair Witch territory. Here is where I would claim that the film falls apart if anything had been built in the first place. This occupies the final third of the film and is presented as the unedited final footage of a video camera that has already contributed plenty to the story. These twenty-two minutes are, by far, the most grueling moments of the film, but not in any kind of good way. On the one hand, we have the very worst sensationalism of the torture porn subgenre. You want to watch a little girl eat out of a dog bowl? Here you go. On the other hand, the film slows to an interminable pace, to the extent (literally) of watching a guy's feet as he shovels dirt for a full nine of the dullest minutes in cinema history.
I have to give credit where credit is due, though. Goi truly does capture how horribly annoying young teens are. As Megan and Amy communicate via their phone cams and video chats, we hear about every horrible piece of stupid gossip in their lives. It's not intelligent dialog, but I can't argue with the realism. Additionally, I really can't fault the young actresses in the lead roles for the lameness of the film. They're forced to do plenty of awful things and they clearly do the best possible job they can. I have a hard time imagining how their parents signed off on this stuff, except that Goi sold them on the idea that what they would have to endure had social value.
Perhaps most torturous of all is the fact that this film, of all the films, gets a big DVD package. From Anchor Bay, we get an image and a sound mix that are both as crisp as they can be, a hindrance on a film supposedly shot on webcams that strives for realism. Still, the video is nice and crisp, though the audio has a few ticks and lapses in sound, which are clearly intentional but not nearly enough to convey the intended atmosphere.
The extras don't number that many, but there is far more here than I wanted to see. The two audio commentaries are very different and both are actually interesting in their own ways. The first, with producer Mark Gragnani and stars Amber Perkins and Rachel Quinn, is pretty normal production commentary, with Gragnani giving background info and the girls gabbing about being in their first movie. Admittedly, it's valuable to hear them talk about some of the more difficult scenes. The second commentary, with Michael Goi, is just weird and gross. He gives us plenty of background for the film, as well, but his are stories about how he came up with the story, and fall immediately into TMI territory. I won't spoil it for those sorry enough to listen, but his claims are of first-hand knowledge of many of the events in the first half of the film. To see the events unfold while listening to him almost brag about his insight is incredibly creepy. Moving on, a short deleted scene is there for no real good reason and the making-of featurette is a lot of talk about the film's importance, which I've already heard too much about. Finally, we have a personal message from Marc Klaas, whose daughter, Polly Klaas, was kidnapped and murdered years ago. No doubt he suffered an incredible tragedy, but I have to think his judgment is shot if he could watch Megan Is Missing and gush about its social importance.
Predators exist both online and off, and I don't want to trivialize that, but their existence does not mean that around every corner and behind every hyperlink is a pervert looking to rape your children. The "It could happen to you!" attitude of the film, combined with the exploitative sexual violence, makes the film laughably sensationalist. It's an ugly film with no value beyond the most prurient. But, hey, nice DVD, so that's something.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Anchor Bay
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