Megan Is Missing and the Endless Allure of the Taboo

2011 found footage horror movie Megan is Missing is trending on TikTok - but why are we so drawn to things we're told will be bad for us?

Megan is Missing
Megan Is Missing (2011) Amber Perkins and Rachel Quinn in Megan Is Missing (2011) Credit: Trio Pictures Photo: Trio Pictures

If you put a big red button in front of someone and tell them not to push the button, all that person is going to want to do is push the damn thing. 

So then to the strange case of Megan is Missing, a low budget exploitation movie shot in 2006, given a limited release in 2011 which is now suddenly trending due to some high profile TikTok users talking about how utterly horrible it is and apparently warning others off with hyperbolic statements such as:

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@bella.clare

please watch this film at your own risk. It is something i will never watch again . i am forever traumatized.

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@lilnutmegg 

If you are thinking of watching Megan is Missing, please don’t. I love horror/thriller/murder mysteries and I can watch them very easily, but this one I will never ever forget. I couldn’t even finish it.

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Not to miss a trick, after the movie started to blow up, director Michael Goi joined the fun, issuing a warning: “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’re already kind of freaking out before you start seeing things that maybe you don’t want to see.”

Don’t push the button. Are you going to push the button? [If you want to lightly tap the button, there are worse places to start than this reasonable review containing some pretty horrible images, written by extreme cinema critic Zoe Rose Smith].

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Megan is Missing is a found footage movie about a popular young teen Megan (Rachel Quinn) who goes missing after agreeing to meet up with a bloke she’s met online and her best mate Amy (Amber Perkins) who tries to find her. The movie features mutilation and torture of the girls as well as a three minute real time rape sequence. Loosely based on real cases – there are similarities to this case, for example – and pegged as ‘educational’ in its exposure of the dangers of the internet faced by young women and girls, the movie was banned in New Zealand on its release with the classification board calling it ‘objectionable’ and criticizing its sexualisation of young teenagers. Whether it attempts to shed light on real crimes or not the film falls squarely into the category of exploitation movie. And no, it’s not real. 

It’s also not unique. There are many, many nasty exploitation movies in the world which show terrible things often happening to young women. If that’s your bag, fill your boots. We’d be surprised to find many of them trending on TikTok however.

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The case with Megan is Missing feels less like a sudden resurgence in interest in extreme cinema and more a strange version of something like FOMO.

“That influencer has been traumatised, I wanna be traumatised!” Or “Don’t you tell me not to traumatise myself, I will if I want to!” 

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Regardless of whether the movie is any good or not – which, by many accounts – it is not.

This isn’t a new phenomena. The video nasty era, for example, while unfairly demonising some excellent movies also added a shroud of glamour to some low rent rubbish and added unnecessary controversy to films where none was warranted – have you seen Driller Killer? If not, well, nor had most of the people who complained about it based on poster.

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The hype surrounding The Human Centipede and A Serbian Film seemed to be generated as much by people who hadn’t seen those films as those who had, with the former making its way into mainstream pop culture – The Human Centipede, while a disgusting concept, is actually pretty tame as a movie, it’s a comedy rather like a Dutch Carry On movie, but gross. 

But there is nothing like notoriety to pique the interest. Back in 2018 it was a Netflix film called Veronica which was ‘too scary to watch!’. In the annals of history Cannibal Holocaust (one of the video nasties) made news when its director Ruggero Deodato met murder charges after authorities thought some of the death scenes were real (they weren’t). Japanese movie Flower Of Flesh and Blood, part of the extreme Guinea Pig series gained notoriety when Charlie Sheen apparently prompted an investigation into the series thinking that it was real (it wasn’t).

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Already on TikTok the backlash has started, with users commenting that it is in fact NOT that traumatising. Somehow, though, we don’t imagine the next big TikTok trend is going to be Men Behind The Sun or Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom.

Perhaps it’s because Megan is Missing is about teenagers. Perhaps it’s the found footage element, that the two girls chat via webcam, that there are scenes of underage sex, drinking, and drug use that make this appealing to the young demographic who frequent TikTok. Or maybe it’s simply that being told not to do something makes you incredibly tempted to do it. In which case definitely DON’T check out this list of genuinely creepy horror films which are guaranteed to be better than Megan Is Missing