Megan is Missing (2011) is a very run-of-the-mill horror movie for the first 4/5th of the film. But the climax is so terrifying and disturbing the movie goes viral every few years as new groups of horror fans discover it. Most recently, the film went viral on TikTok, with people filming their reactions to the film’s last 20 minutes. The trend got so big that the movie director Michael Goi made his own TikTok. He explained that the footage in the movie is not “real,” and he had forensic investigators working as technical advisors to make the movie as accurate as possible. Dirctor Goi said he wanted “Megan is Missing” to be as horrifying as possible so that the film would scare real kids away from meeting strangers.
Spoiler alert: it doesn’t end well. Like, it ends badly for both girls. So please do not watch this movie unless you can handle things ending about as bad as they can end, especially for girls.
Though graphic and horrifying, the film has been praised by Mark Klaas, founder of the Klaaskids Foundation and father of Polly Klaas. A 12-year-old girl was abducted from a party and then molested and murdered by Richard Allen Davis in Petaluma, California, in the year 1993. He said, “Megan is Missing is a powerful, important film that deserves attention and discussion. It should serve as a wake-up call for parents everywhere.” Klaaskids has also hosted fundraisers with Michael Goi, where the movie is shown.
Inspired by a true incident:
On January 9th of 2002, a 12-year-old girl named Ashley Pond disappeared while she was going to board her school bus stop in Oregon City, OR.
After a few months, Ashley Pond’s best friend, 12-year-old Miranda Diane Gaddis, also disappeared.
Eight months after she disappeared, police found Ashley Pond’s body in a 55-gallon barrel underneath a concrete slab in the yard of Ashley and Miranda’s friend, Mallori Weaver. Gaddis’ body was also found on the property. Mallory’s father, Ward Weaver II, was charged, tried, and convicted for the murders.
The three girls had been best friends, were on a dance team, and had frequent sleepovers at the Weaver’s house. Ashley even moved in with the Weavers for a while as her home life was unstable. However, Ashley moved home after taking a two-week vacation with the Weaver family to California, during which Ward raped her.
Ashley was 12 at the time. This occurred in September 2001, four months before Ashley disappeared. Another witness said that Ward’s live-in girlfriend was mad at him because he slept in the same bed as Ashley instead of his adult girlfriend. It’s also pretty weird that all this happened. Multiple people in the community knew (and informed investigators), and it still took eight months for police to get a search warrant for the Weaver’s house.
Here is a news footage from KATU news:
As we can see from this case. DARVO works exceptionally well. The police, in this case, was completely and utterly fooled by Ward Weaver. The man had been reported by the missing girl herself to have raped her only four months before she disappeared. And it still took eight months for police to search Weaver’s home. And that was only because his son told them that he did it.
Miranda’s younger sister, Miriah Gaddis, visited Ward Weaver in jail. She says he told her about the murders and said he was planning to kill Miriah next. Ward Weaver II is serving two life sentences without the possibility of parole.
Michael Goi has issued this warning for anyone who wants to watch Megan is Missing: “Do not watch the movie in the middle of the night. Do not watch the movie alone. And suppose you see the words’ photo number one pop up on your screen. In that case, you have about four seconds to shut off the movie if you’re already kind of freaking out before you start seeing things you may not want to see.”
Megan Is Missing Story:
Megan Stewart and Amy Herman are 14-year-old best friends who went missing in January 2007. She is a high school student who is popular among her school friends. She has a drug addiction and a dysfunctional relationship with her mother. Amy is reluctant to let go of her childhood which is depicted by a scene where she is intriducing her soft toys. She has a healthy relationship with her parents. Even though she has a close friendship with Megan, she is always bullyed at school.
To help her fit in, Megan takes her along to a rave party that she’s attending to celebrate Amy’s upcoming birthday. Where Amy is visibly uncomfortable and gets assaulted when she refuses to have sex with one of the men attending. Later, Amy walks in on Megan performing oral sex on the party’s host in exchange for drugs. This incident shocks Amy. While video chatting, Megan apologizes for the bad experience.
On Amy’s birthday, she records a video using her new camera which was gifted by her father on the occasion of her birthday. She records a video dairy of her and Megan. Megan relates her life story to Amy as she reveals that her stepfather is in prison for raping her when she was nine years old. She explains that her hostile relationship with her mother is due to her never forgiving Megan for reporting him to authorities. Before she can cry, Amy quickly hugs and comforts her.
Entry of Josh
Lexie, one of Megan’s party friends, gives her a social media handle to Josh, someone they think is a 17-year-old boy from a nearby school. He remains anonymous on video chat, claiming that he has a broken webcam. Despite several red flags and contradictions, Megan finds herself infatuated with him. They agree to meet at a party, but he fails to reveal himself. She confronts him online but forgives him when he accurately describes what she was wearing and insists he is shy.
Amy begins to feel left out, and while at Megan’s house, Megan introduces her to him. Josh convinces Megan to meet him behind a diner (rather than public this time). On January 17, news reports revealed that Megan had vanished. The last footage of her is from the diner’s grainy security camera, showing her being grabbed by the wrist by an indistinct man. Amy launches an investigation into Megan’s disappearance and talks online with Josh. After realizing Amy suspects him, he threatens her.
While recording a video diary underneath an old bridge where she’d share secrets with Megan, Amy is grabbed by a man. Investigators find her video camera in a garbage can. In unedited footage, Josh unlocks the door to a BDSM chamber with Amy chained to the wall. Josh later brutally rapes her, then tells her he will let her go if she gets into a large plastic barrel to conceal his whereabouts. Amy opens the barrel and attempts to flee when she sees Megan’s decaying corpse inside. She is forced inside alongside Megan’s body and begs to live while Josh digs a large hole in a forest. He pushes the barrel in and fills it up before picking up his flashlight and walking away.
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“Megan is Missing”, was made with a low budget, which is part of the reason for the found footage format. Director Goi self-financed the film as he believed investors wouldn’t fund it, keeping its violent scipt in view. It was shot within a week in 2008 with a small crew of only five people and a budget of $35,000. The movie had “no grip equipment, no motion picture lighting equipment, no professional sound recording equipment” to have a “raw” and realistic feel. The vast majority of the cast were adolescents, and Goi required that their parents be on the set during filming due to the film’s graphic nature.
The majority of the cast were first time actors or inexperienced. The casting was intentional, as Goi wanted the characters to be portrayed by non-recognizable actors for the film to have an “air of reality.” Rachel Quinn, a seventeen-year-old aspiring actress and dancer, got cast in the role of Megan Stewart. Amber Perkins, who had previously only done background work for television shows and commercials, was cast in the lead role of Amy Herman. This role marked her feature film debut. The role of the villain, Josh, was given to Australian actor Dean Waite.
The last 20 Mins.
In the controversial photographs used in the film, Quinn is legitimately wearing the torture device. Quinn describes wearing the headgear as her worst memory of filming. She attests this because it was physically uncomfortable and mentally traumatizing when she realized what she was portraying. As the photographs are reality-based, Quinn asked Goi to show her the inspiration behind them. Upon seeing the real-life photographs she was reenacting, she began crying on the set. Quinn spent several hours having the special effects for Megan’s corpse reveal applied to her. And had to wear oversized white contact lenses that essentially blinded her when shooting in the barrel. Goi was very particular about the makeup direction for Megan’s corpse. He wanted the audience to be able to tell that it was her, that she looked realistically dead, and to show that she suffered tremendously in the process of dying.
The basement scenes were challenging for Perkins. Quinn agreed to stay on the set, making it a more comfortable environment for her. Goi has stated that Waite’s scenes were difficult to film for the actor. In particular, the rape scene of the Amy character was difficult for him, which required several reshoots. Goi recollects Waite becoming frustrated and cursing when told they had to refilm it. The burial scene of Waite digging the large hole in the forest was filmed in real-time. Perkins ad-libbed most of her dialogue in the barrel.
The film was controversial upon its limited release due to its graphic and exploitative depiction of violence and rape and the overt sexualization of the fourteen-year-old titular protagonist. Although, some critics have emphasized that Goi succeeds with the film having an impact.
Film critic Alexandra Heller-Nicholas deemed the purposeful amateur cinematography as aiding in the film’s authentic feel. She notes the graphic photographs of Megan’s torture mark the film’s tonal shift and that the camera’s gaze. Belonging to the heroines at the film’s beginning, being turned against them “adds to the horrific revelations.”
In a positive review for The Leaf-Chronicle (Tennessee), film critic Jamie Dexter compared the film to the Paranormal Activity franchise and The Blair Witch Project (1999) and praised the storyline. Stating, “It took days for me to shake the horrible feeling this movie left in me. But that means it was effective in what it set out to do. Show this real and plausible scenario of how internet predators work.”
In a negative review for the Oklahoma Gazette, Rod Lott criticized Goi’s characterization and handling of Megan and the acting of the rest of the cast.
Beyond Hollywood and DVD Verdict also panned the film, with Beyond Hollywood calling it “majorly disappointing”. And DVD Verdict stating that they “wished the disc had been missing from the box.” However, HorrorNews.net gave a more positive review, saying that the first portion of the film “really works,”. Although they felt that the final twenty-two minutes “went a little overboard.”
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Ban in New Zealand
In October 2011, New Zealand’s Office of Film and Literature Classification banned Anchor Bay’s release of this film by classifying it as “objectionable.” They claimed that it contained sexual violence and sexual conduct involving young people to an extent and degree and in such a manner as if it were released. It would be ‘injurious to the public good. New Zealand’s Office of Film and Literature Classification said it relished in the spectacle of one girl’s ordeal. Including a three-minute rape scene. They also stated that it sexualized the lives of young teenage girls to a “highly exploitative degree.”
Popular culture and director’s warnings
In November 2020, the film became a pop culture sensation after it went viral on the video-sharing app TikTok. The platform is where the film has had its largest audience since its release. Users began posting their reactions as the film progressed, with many calling it “traumatizing.” The hashtag for the film has over 83 million views. After being informed by Perkins that the film had gone viral, Goi later issued a trigger warning for prospective viewers. He said “Do not watch the movie in the middle of the night. Do not watch the movie alone. And suppose you see the words’ photo number one pop up on your screen. In that case, 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”. Goi stated that he made the film with the purpose of it being a “wake-up call” to parents. Still, instead, it is children who discover the film and make it resurface sporadically. The film later began trending on Twitter. Although it has garnered significant popularity, the film has seen very little distribution in a physical format, with DVD copies becoming increasingly scarce with no apparent plans for a rerelease until 2021 with the announcement of a Blu-ray release set for October 26, 2021, via Lionsgate (current owners of the Anchor Bay library).
Remake and the potential sequel
A few years after its release, a production company in Mexico approached Goi to make a Spanish-language remake of the film with a Mexican cast. Goi declined the offer as he did not want to revisit the grim subject matter. However, he stated that he has theorized about making a sequel. But no progress has been made due to “no angle” for him to take the story.