Is Megan is Missing real? Uncovering the reasons and reality behind the disturbing movie

Megan is Missing

The viral phenomenon ‘Megan is Missing’, with over 586 million views on its hashtag on TikTok, simply began with people reacting to the gratuitous violence faced by the characters in the movie. But what sets the movie apart from the other horror movies is that it is particularly difficult to watch.

Aside from its infamously dark and disturbing content, the controversial horror movie is even banned in New Zealand and deemed “injurious to the public good”. Surprisingly, its maker had the opposite purpose in mind when making the movie. Perhaps there is more to Megan is Missing than what is shown on the surface.

Key Takeaways

  • ‘Megan is Missing’ is a 2011 found-footage psychological horror film written and directed by Michael Goi.
  • Director Goi’s intention for the movie was to educate parents on the danger and reality of internet predators lurking online.
  • While the movie itself is fictional, the events it portrays are based on seven real-life cases of child abduction by internet predators.

Megan is Missing was made on a budget of $35,000 in less than nine days with a crew of only five people

Michael Goi, a professional cinematographer whose work spans numerous films and television series including American Horror Story, Web Therapy, and Scream Queens, directed one of the most controversial movies of 2011 titled Megan is Missing.

The plot of the found-footage film centers around the events leading to the disappearance of a teenage girl, Megan Stewart (played by Rachel Quinn) at the hands of an internet predator (played by Dean Waite) and the ensuing investigation carried out by her best friend, Amy Herman (played by Amber Perkins).

Made on a limited budget of $35,000 and with a crew of only five people, the movie was shot in eight and a half days in 2008. Goi told Entertainment Weekly that he self-financed the film as he anticipated that he would have a difficult time finding investors for the movie due to its “relentlessly grim script”.

“I knew we had to do it on a fairly tight budget, which motivated part of the decision to do it in a found-footage format. But also, that format seemed to lend itself a lot to the type of movie that I wanted to make,” said Goi.

Moreover, the movie features raw aesthetics due to an absence of professional lighting and sound equipment, and an ensemble of amateur, first-time actors. These were intentional creative decisions as Goi explained that recognizable faces or actors would not have let the movie have that “air of reality” he wanted to capture.

But the film’s release was delayed for years as it failed to find any distributor willing to screen it, possibly due to its graphic depiction of brutal sexual violence inflicted on teenage characters.

However, nearly four years after it was originally shot, ‘Megan is Missing’ managed to secure a distributor in September 2011 as The Wrap reported that Anchor Bay had bought the rights to the movie and was planning its release in the following months.

Goi had intended Megan is Missing to be an educational movie warning parents about the dangers of internet predators

Despite the harrowing content and brutal imagery of Megan is Missing and what the viewer might think, Goi maintains that he made the movie for adults as a cautionary tale for parents about the risks of internet predators their children are likely to face without online supervision.

“The movie is too extreme for some people to either take it seriously or to not be judgmental of the motives behind making it. In retrospect, the message may have been clearer if the movie hadn’t been so frank and brutal. But on the other hand, if the movie weren’t so frank and brutal, then it would be basically a lie to what I originally had set out to do or to show,” Michael Goi told Entertainment Weekly.

He also never intended for children to find the movie and yet it was the young people who found the movie online and contacted him afterward.

Furthermore, Rachel Quinn, who played the titular character of Megan when she was only 17, told The Boo Crew in a podcast that she never thought of the movie as a horror flick because of the serious message it tried to convey.

“We were so immersed in the message and why this movie was being made. That was really what the movie was really about, it was about getting this message across and warning young teenagers and parents about the dangers of internet predators. So, to me, it was just about getting involved with the message more than a horror film,” Quinn explained.

Since both Quinn and Amber Perkins, who played the lead character Amy, were teenagers in real life while filming (Amber was 18), their parents were heavily involved in the shooting process. For instance, their acting contracts for the movie were signed by the parents.

“I made it clear to [the parents] that they needed to be on set, every single day, one parent had to be there. And if a child showed up without their parents, I was not going to shoot them that day. Those were the rules,” said Goi in the podcast.

While the film itself is not real, the events portrayed are based on an amalgamation of seven different real-life cases of child abduction

Unsurprisingly, the movie’s found-footage cinematography played a part in making people think that it was a real documentary of a missing girl. Not to mention, its sudden revival on TikTok and YouTube after ten years of its original release has understandably left the viewers with a lack of context about what they were seeing.

Megan is Missing

“We never set out to deceive people into thinking that it’s real. I understand people’s emotional reactions to the material, that they want to believe or feel like that supposedly it’s real. But it is a movie, it’s a motion picture,” Goi told Entertainment Weekly, clarifying that the movie was never marketed as a real incident.

While the movie may be “fictional”, it is indeed based on real cases of child abduction and nothing was made up as not only was the plot based on an amalgamation of seven different real-life cases but even the dialogues were authentic as Goi transcribed the conversations of children around him and integrated the way they talked into his characters.

“Everything came from documents, court transcripts, surveillance videos, file photos, all of that from seven different cases. And so, in that sense, it’s entirely accurate to what actually happened in these individual cases, just the seven cases were melded into one storyline,” said Goi.

Nonetheless, the movie’s shot sequences have unsettled the viewers who were curious about how the cast members were doing now. Perkins reassured that she and Quinn were well and alive in the podcast:

“A lot of people want to know if it’s real. For us, luckily it wasn’t real, we were filming it but unfortunately, things like this happen to people, so it is real for other people and it is the sad reality.”

Besides, it was Perkins who alerted Goi about the revival of Megan is Missing on TikTok and how it went viral online, prompting him to address the movie’s newfound audience in a TikTok video of his own. Goi apologized to the viewers who had found the movie traumatizing and issued a warning to potential viewers, saying:

“I didn’t get to give you the customary warnings that I used to give people before they watched ‘Megan is missing’ which are; do not watch the movie in the middle of the night, 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 are already kind of freaking out before you start seeing things that you maybe don’t want to see.”