Though nearly a decade old at this point, the 2011 horror film Megan Is Missing went viral on Tik Tok this past week. Teens, man. What are you going to do?
Well, when Michael Goi, the writer and director of the film — who has also directed episodes of American Horror Story, Pretty Little Liars, and Riverdale — heard about the sudden uptick in interest in his film, he took to Tik Tok himself to issue a warning to his new fans.
In particular, he wanted to warn viewers about "Photo Number 1."
"Hello my friends on Tik Tok, this is Michael Goi, the writer/director of Megan Is Missing," Goi said in a video message.
"I got a text from Amber Perkins, the lead actress in my movie, that it was exploding on Tik Tok at the moment. 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 1' pop up on your screen, you have about four seconds to shut off the movie if you're already freaking out, before you start seeing things that maybe you don't want to see."
"Apologies to those who are already posting about how the movie has freaked them out," Goi continued. "But fair warning to those of who are still contemplating watching the film. Thanks."
As far as warnings go, it's a fairly non-specific one. But Twitter users filled in the blanks, sharing trigger warnings for rape scenes, sexual assault, sexualising teenagers, graphic imagery, and more:
For those curious about "photo number 1" in Megan Is Missing, basically, the MA-rated film features staged, disturbing photos of a teenage girl being tortured and mutilated in various ways. If you were already traumatised by them on Tik Tok, perhaps it will bring you comfort to know the Megan Is Missing photos are not real in any way, shape, or form.
Though it is filmed in the "found footage" style that was popular among horror movies back then, and though it was marketed as an "educational" film upon release, Megan Is Missing is not a true story. Megan Is Missing is not a documentary.
Actor Rachel Quinn stars as Megan, a teenager who disappears after she goes to meet-up with a boy she met online.
Her best friend Amy Herman (Amber Perkins) tries to track her down, and in the process finds disturbing photos of Megan being mutilated and tortured on online fetish forums.
And yes, you do see the photos. Several of them. For educational purposes, of course!
But once more for the people in the back: Megan Is Missing is not real. The Megan Is Missing photos are not real. Photo Number 1 is not real — but it is extremely disturbing.
Goi has said he based the story on real-life cases of child abductions and intended the graphic nature of the film to serve as a cautionary tale.
However, that explanation wasn't good enough for the New Zealand Office of Film and Literature classification, who banned the film and wrote in its 2012 annual report:
"The feature, Megan Is Missing, is comprised of faux "found footage" (mobile phone, hand-held video camera, television news reports and internet chatroom footage) and follows about eight weeks in the lives of two girls aged 13 and 14 years which culminates in their abduction and murder by an online predator.
Although an attempt has been made to present the material in the context of a cautionary tale, and there is additional interview footage that puts forward the notion that the feature could raise awareness of the vulnerability of teenage girls to sexual predators, the feature's material is strongly prurient and exploitative.
The film relishes the spectacle of one girl's ordeal including a three-minute real-time rape scene."