ava zaria lee, found footage, missing, nia long, nicholas d johnson, screen life horror, sony entertainment pictures, tim griffin, will merrick
Found Footage Films. Bit of a hot button topic here at Surgeons, they can be both brilliant & bad in that they can spin a great yarn despite limitations in coverage, whilst that very same limitation can lead to repetitive story-telling techniques.
Surgeons of Horror podcast – Found Footage Horror
Having said that, one of the more innovate ways to execute such movies, is to use the all-pervasive and ever intrusive digital world as your lens.
Cleverly done by the film Unfriended (and its sequel Unfriended:Dark Web) Missing is the sandbox sequel to Searching and Run (apparently). And by that we mean it takes place in the same universe as Searching (a similar digital interface film
– I’ve decided that that is what we shall call this type of found footage sub-genre) and Run (which is a traditional coverage film). And although no doubt the film-makers have a good reason to make these 3 movies connected, you are pretty much hit with a 3-letter word starting with a redundant W and H, and ending with a Y!? Especially when you actually see the connection (and you need a microscope for one of them) you soon realise their inclusiveness adds nothing whatsoever to the plot of Missing.
So maybe there is a future Avengersstyle mega Searching/Run/Missing film to come where the leads of each movie team up to, I dunno, tackle a genuine impossible-to-solve mystery; like tracking a missing Uber Eats order, but in the meantime let’s explore Missing!
The premise of the film – as seen by the trailer (see clip above this article) is – a single mother of a teenage girl goes on a holiday with her boyfriend, and then promptly disappears. Said teenager then uses the power of the internet to track her down, only to find multiple layers of “things are NOT what they seem….”
So far so usual right? And even though conceptually & execution wise Missing has a lot in common with Searching (and nothing in common with Run) it is a well-made film that does the most fundamentally important thing a flick like this needs to do. And that’s draw you in.
The actual plot is driven from the perspective of the daughter’s laptop interface. The daughter, June (played by Storm Reid (someone’s parents were Fantastic 4 fans…) uses every legit (and maybe one or 2 made up ones? I dunno, I’m a Gen X-er) website and internet service out there to hunt down her mother.
And the first thing you are immediately struck by is… just how fast can this girl type!?? Clearly the speed in which she navigates from one idea to another as she opens, scrolls, reads and downloads
app after app to hack, track, investigate, eliminate clue after clue to find out what the hell happened
to her mum is accelerated for ease-of-storytelling. But you kinda get the impression that, as with
most Gen Zedders, it ain’t that far off.
So dayumshe’s fast! The FBI (unbelievably impotent and inept in this film) really need to hire her
when she graduates high school.
And the 2nd thing you are struck by is, which websites or apps turned down this movie!? ‘Cause this
is a GREAT advertising platform for any such thing to show off their features! Just with Gmail alone, I can guarantee you’ll come away from the theatre saying “I had no idea it could do that!” In fact, if the film-makers were smart, that’s how they would have pitched this movie in order to
a) get permission to use said apps and
b) get funding.
Because the more cynical of you out there could easily accuse Missing of being a feature length commercial for Internet companies big and small. And you’d be hard pressed to be proven wrong. But the story is good enough to make you look past all that.
The 3rd thing is that one should definitely see this at the movies. Unfriended is a good film (yep, you have to print that Saul, ‘cause it is – (SAUL “I’m printing this because of freedom of speech, but just for the record, I completely disagree.”)) but if you see it on a laptop you WILL suffer from small text syndrome. Missing gets around this by zooming in where it needs to, but all words are legible by the simple fact it’s a movie going experience. If you wait for it to come out on streaming, you will lose some of the
The 4th thing is that this film – during the creative process – would have run into the usual limitation all found footage directors run into. How do you tell a story effectively when you are restrained in your camera coverage? Well Missing does a good job addressing this too, with surreptitious use of mirrors (literally) and jump-cut close ups.
Missing is a surprising page turner that builds frog-in-boiling-water style very well, so by the time you start to get to the more incredulous reveals, you honestly go with it, ‘cause they are quite well earned. And you do kinda want to see how it all ends. Otherwise, you’ll won’t know what you’re missing… (yeah. It had to be said).
- Antony Yee
PS: Oh – a quick Google search says that this type of found footage drama is called Screen Life Horror. Well that’s just stoopid…