Film

What Is ‘Megan Is Missing’, The Banned Horror Movie Terrifying A New Generation On TikTok?

The film has set TikTok alight over these last few weeks.

Megan is Missing

Back in 2006, cinematographer and director Michael Goi sat down for 10 hurried days and wrote a script. The result: Megan is Missing, a self-referentially vile found footage horror film that is currently scarring a new generation on TikTok.

This article contains a discussion of sexual assault.

It’s through the social media app that the film has found its largest audience to date — it received only a limited release back in 2011, almost half a decade after it had been shot.

Back then, the critical notices were largely unimpressed, too. Reviewers took umbrage with the film’s down and dirty production style — in one scene, Goi can be heard shouting, “action” — and its unrepentant nastiness. Rod Lott, a writer for the Oklahoma Gazette, was the harshest. “This is amateurish trash disguised as an ‘important’ message movie,” he wrote, dismissively.

Indeed, before this year, the film’s closest brush with fame was as a result of it getting banned. The New Zealand government took umbrage not only with the film’s violence — much of it sexual — but also the fact that the victims of Megan is Missing are mostly teenagers. The final word from the government summed up many people’s opinions on the film: it was “objectionable”, they said.

So why has Megan is Missing come roaring back into the pop culture consciousness? The answer, as it turns out, lies precisely in the film’s unpleasantness.

What Is Megan Is Missing About?

Megan Is Missing is the story of Megan Stewart (Rachel Quinn), a young high school student who deals with her PTSD from being sexually abused as a child by turning to drugs and casual sexual encounters.

The first half of the film, which is mostly taken up with long rave sequences, sees Megan move from self-destructive behaviour to self-destructive behaviour, much to the chagrin of her friend Amy (Amber Perkins).

Then, out of nowhere, the plot kicks in. Megan goes missing and within days, photos and videos of her being tortured begin to appear on fetish sites.

Moments later — and be warned, extensive spoilers for the film now follow — Amy goes missing too. Turns out that both she and Megan have been abducted by Josh, a violent thug, who sexually assaults and threatens Amy. Though he initially promises to let Amy go, Josh instead changes her mind and shows her where Megan is.

Or, that should be, where Megan was: it is revealed that Megan was murdered weeks ago, and her body is rotting in a barrel.

In one final gross-out moment, Josh then puts Amy in the barrel with the body of her decayed friend, seals it up, and buries it with the screaming Amy in the middle of a forest.

So yes: extremely unpleasant stuff. As Lott notes, the film has a broad “point” — it’s an early internet panic film, and much is made of the danger of agreeing to hang out with strangers when you are a young and vulnerable woman. But Goi is no moralist. What he’s actually interested in is getting himself up to the neck in pure ethical grime. Which he does, over and over again.

Is Megan Is Missing That Disturbing?

The short answer is yes, absolutely. The film contains multiple and extensive scenes of sexual assault, many of which are filmed in unbroken takes, and the last 20 minutes or so are one long barrage of horrible things happening to screaming people.

Then there are the photos of Megan’s torture, which have been going viral on TikTok. Showing all sorts of awful violence in unrestricted close-ups, there’s a reason that people on social media have been tricked into believing that the film is actually a documentary — they’re skin-pricklingly realistic.

Indeed, Goi himself has waded into discussions of the film’s new viral fame in order to provide a trigger warning. “Do not watch the movie in the middle of the night,” he has said.

“Do not watch the movie alone. And if you see the words ‘photo number one’ pop up on your screen, you have about four seconds to shut off the movie if you’re already kind of freaking out before you start seeing things that maybe you don’t want to see.”

Of course, Goi is being something of a showman here, turning his film into an endurance test. But it’s worth taking him seriously — there are things in this movie that you’d do better to avoid having rattling around in your brain.

What Should I Watch Instead?

Let’s say you like the sound of Megan is Missing, but don’t actually want to put yourself through it. No worries. There are other similar films that contain much less sexual violence, and are generally easier watches.

The most prominent film that Megan resembles is Unfriended: Dark Web. Another found footage movie about the horrors of messing around with people on the internet, Dark Web is depraved and violent, like Megan is. But it’s also funny in a way that Goi’s film is not, and its sheer inventiveness stops it from becoming a mere trudge through horror.

Also spooky without being genuinely life-ruining is The Taking of Deborah Logan. A fake documentary about a woman succumbing to Alzheimer’s that eventually becomes a story of demonic possession, it’s filled with slickly unpleasant imagery, including a famous shot of someone getting their head “sucked.”

And finally, there’s Australia’s own Lake Mungo. This is the found footage chiller for those who prefer creeping atmosphere and dread than full-out gore — it’s a genuinely moving, if extremely unsettling, faux A Current Affair-style exploration of a family’s haunting by an uncompromising spiritual presence.

So yeah, if Megan is Missing sounds too intense for you, it almost certainly is. Watch something else instead.