Directors: Nick Johnson and Will Merrick
Starring: Storm Reid, Joaquim de Almeida, Ken Leung, Amy Landecker, Daniel Henley, and Nia Long
Review: A few years ago, a new genre of found footage was invented. The “watch a computer monitor” genre for lack of a better phrase. Essentially, you are experiencing a screen recording of someone’s laptop, phone, whatever as they’re going through a movie worthy experience. Now, I’m not going to lie. This can be an effective storytelling device. Horror, especially, seems to work really well with both Host and Unfriended impressing me with their victims dying over Zoom calls. However, I was not super impressed by Searching a few years ago. I thought it was a good story, but didn’t really thrive in the “screen recording” genre with it having to cheat or bend their own rules on several occasions. Well, apparently, I was in the minority because now we have Missing, the spiritual sequel that has almost exactly the same feel (and problems) of that nearly forgotten movie.
So, here’s the thing about this genre of movie. We’re past the point where you get points just for telling an effective story from a monitor alone. It’s been done. It’s been done quite well. Now, you need to actually prove that this is the best way to tell this particular story. I’m not sure that Missing ever really does that. The intrigue behind the mystery at the center of this story is quite good. I was invested. Every twist and turn had me playing detective like a good true crime drama does. (A fact they’re very aware of and play around with throughout the flick.) But, I couldn’t help but think “why is this story being told this way?” And honestly the only answer I could come up with is “It’s a sequel to Searching.” That’s it. Not that it gave us any more insight to the characters or added more suspense or even made the story seem more believable. It was simply because they chose to focus on the genre first and let everything else fall to a distant second. And, personally, I think this would’ve been a way more effective story had they told it in the traditional way.
And you know what makes it even worse? The movie has to jump through what feels like unrealistic hoops to continue the screen recording premise. For example, in able to get the actress’s reactions to what’s going on around her, her webcam is constantly on. Not only when she’s on FaceTime or WhatsApp. No constantly. Even when she’s just doing something like creating a Spotify playlist. Now, I’ll admit that I might have a semi-dated relationship with technology at this point. But… no one does that, right? You have it open if/when it needs to be and then close it immediately after. There’s no reason to have your face up on your screen 24/7. And, without going into spoilers, the ridiculousness of them having footage of the situation increases tenfold in the final act. Are there ways around this? Yeah. Other genre movies have taken care of this issue nicely by either having never ending calls or having the characters livestream. Both realistic alternatives to her just having her camera open for no reason. On top of that, there are some things that she does here that technology just doesn’t do. For example, she accesses the backlog of a tourist trap live stream. I’m pretty sure most (if not all) websites like that just have live feed and that’s pretty much it. Again, maybe I’m wrong. I don’t think I am though.
Overall, I do think I enjoyed Missing more than I disliked it. Again, the plot was really, really good with a ton of twists and turns I never would’ve seen coming. However, I just kept being pulled out of it by the format and the unnatural feel of a lot of the screen activity. As I said, I probably would’ve preferred if this was just a straight, normal crime thriller instead of a found footage one. It would’ve allowed for more range and they wouldn’t have had to cheat as often to tell their story. But… then it wouldn’t really be a sequel to Searching and, really, that’s the whole reason Missing exists in the first place so…
TL;DR: Missing features a really good, compelling true crime drama in a format that hinders it’s storytelling more than it helps.
Score: 6/10 (Ok)