Megan is Missing, 2011.
Directed by Michael Goi.
Starring Amber Perkins, Rachel Quinn and Dean White.
Megan is an outgoing, confident 14-year-old whilst her best friend, Amy, 13, is not so self-assured. Megan meets a boy online, Josh, and agrees to meet him. Next thing Amy knows, Megan is gone. In pursuit of finding her best friend, Amy tells the police about Josh – but then Amy goes missing too…
Megan is Missing has caused some controversy since its release, banned in New Zealand for ‘glorifying young sexuality’. Elsewhere, mothers are taking away their children’s computers, outright banning them from spending time on the Internet.
The debate about protecting children from the Web is pretty controversial in itself. We have come to rely on technology and connecting to the Internet for all manner of reasons, be them completely innocent, like checking a fact for homework, or something a lot more sinister like ‘Josh’ has in mind. However, whatever anyone’s views on letting their children access the world wide web, Megan is Missing is a shocking story to make you think.
We follow the 14 year old Megan, not particularly a likeable character – but we see she does have a nicer side which she hides to avoid tarnishing her popularity with the ‘cool kids’ who drink, smoke drugs and have a good time. Megan is introduced to Josh, a faceless online ‘friend’ who claims his webcam is busted by his brother, and then chewed by his dog. You’d be sceptical right? Ok, well set your mind back to your early teens and tell me you wouldn’t just carry on chatting to kill the time. It’s a worrying thing, many of us may have chatted to any sort of person when we went through that phase of chatting to people online – and if you think I’m being unrealistic, just look at the popularity of Chat Roulette and other such forums.
Anyway, Megan agrees to meet with Josh – he seems shy, after seeing her at a party and being too nervous to say hello. The two arrange to meet behind a diner – and that’s the last Amy hears from her best friend. Anxious to find out the truth, she chats to Josh who very quickly turns aggressive, and before long is tailing Amy to teach her a lesson for blabbing to the police.
Megan is Missing works to a pretty strong degree in telling us that chatting to strangers is definitely not safe online. It may seem harmless, but meeting up with them is also not a particularly wise move. No one would like to think they are naïve enough to agree to meet someone they’ve spoken to online, but the sad truth is that it happens all the time. Megan’s character may seem a little emphasised and quite unlike anyone you know – but Megan’s do exist, and even those less confident, and less damaged by their past, are still willing to agree to meet with seemingly harmless online friends, who could be as perverted as the predator in this film.
Preaching aside, the film takes an interesting stance on technology. Acting as a compilation of mobile phone video footage (a la IPhones Facetime), alongside news reports and video camera footage, Megan is Missing creates a documentary that takes you to pretty dark places. It’s mostly well-thought out and put together, but a minor gripe I have with this film is its dealings with news reports. I have a limited idea on how US news reports are put together – they do tend to use more visual elements like graphics and cheesy transition effects, but the use of them in the film looks more like parody as opposed to replication, which doesn’t really sit well alongside the sinister subject matter.
The acting in the film is great, Amber Perkins as Amy Herman is a particular highlight. Although some scenes seem to linger a little too long and not seemingly with the intention to discomfort, generally the story plays out effectively. The marketing of Megan is Missing is quite interesting too, as it claims to be a fictional drama ‘based on real events’ – whether this is an amalgamation of cases of child abduction, or replicates a particular case, I am unsure.
Get hold of this DVD and watch for a thought-provoking look at the web, and check out the extras for a shocking statement from Marc Klaas, the owner of Klaas Kids, a foundation which aids parents with missing children – as he himself had a young daughter abducted, raped and killed.