First and foremost, the message of this movie is an excellent one, and one that needs to be heard; 14 year old girls are stupid. That's not really the message of the movie, but it is true, and the movie kinda proves it. So I guess it is the message of the movie. Kinda.
Parents of modern day teens don't help matters much, giving them far too much unsupervised freedom at such a young age. Growing up now isn't the same as growing up when they did, the internet has changed all of that. Webcams, smart phones, Facebook... in relation to the point of this movie, kids are sexualized far too early and far too easily these days, and the creepy thing is that they do it to themselves. At any given time on many social, webcam or even porn sites, you have teen girls either talking sex, trying to hook up, or taking pictures/video of themselves either half naked or fully nude, and doing things that make them nothing more than sexual objects to anyone watching or talking with them.
They attract the wrong attention, don't think, and end up in trouble.
That's the point of the movie.
*DISCLAIMER* I am NOT preaching here. The only thing better than a naked girl is a dumb one with no self esteem. Daddy issues are the best. And before someone reads this and thinks "What a jerk!", try having a penis sometimes ladies, it's no picnic. It fills us with shame and lust, and we do tend to objectify the pretty things that are thrown in our face, especially when it's done so casually. It's just that it's creepy when this applies to 15 year-olds. So me no preachy, I'm just sayin' that young'ins are really scandalous these days...
What's it About- Megan is 14, Amy is 13, and they're best friends. Megan is a slut, and Amy is a sweet girl who is scared to be a slut. While Megan is out drinking, doing drugs, and blowing random guys, Amy is all like "um, no." So needless to say that in school, Megan is popular and Amy is a loser. Neat how that works, eh?
We find out that Megan was abused when she was 9, which pretty much sent her on her course of self destruction. So, despite being a moron, we can't help but feel for her, and neither can Amy. Amy is drawn to the wilder lifestyle of Megan, because she isn't wild at all, and Megan wants the normalcy of Amy, because she is. Somehow through all of that they form a pretty solid bond, and fill each others gaps. Figuratively, pervs. Although that is a funny pun.
Long story short, Megan meets a "kid" named "Josh" in a chatroom, decides to hook up with him, and disappears. Amy, obviously distraught, launches a campaign to find out what happened to her friend, and ends up finding herself in danger. To say more about what unfolds and how would be a disservice to the impact of the movie. Let's just say that "Josh" is a lie!
The Good- Director Michael Goi actually gives us a horrific film with a purpose, and it's obvious that he made this because the issue of internet predators/susceptible teens is one that he cares about. He went to great lengths to make the movie realistic (although some of it feels less than at times) and actually say something.
It's all a culmination of 7 different real cases involving missing teens and internet predators, and Goi went so far as to even observe teens while chatting with friends, to be as true as possible to the subject matter. At times it feels like we aren't watching kids talking via video chat, rather 20 year-olds pretending to be kids talking via video chat. The message of it all is important and validates the lackluster storytelling for the most part though. It's an unsettling, disturbing glimpse of what happens to these kids when they're abducted, only to be found dead later on, if they're ever found at all. Our small gripes aside, he got it all mostly right.
Perfect or not, it's effective as hell.
The Bad- A few story elements had us scratching our collective heads (SPOILERS BELOW):
-Megan disappears, and her best friend Amy mentions nothing about the guy from online that she went to meet behind a diner? Not even one casual word about it, even after Megan's mom is on the news talking about how she just wants her back safe?
-She doesn't report "Josh" to the police right away, even though he was the one Megan was going to meet when she disappeared? And when she finally does, she's still allowed online by her parents, the police do nothing to monitor her online activity, and she just casually continues to video chat (one sided, mind you) with "Josh", even when he becomes abusive and threatening?
-After her best friend goes missing, not only do Amy's parents allow her to continue with unfettered internet access, but allow her to leave the house with her video camera to wander the streets alone, and for long periods of time. A 14 year old girl, with a friend that went missing... and no one says "You aren't going anywhere alone" or "No more chatting online" , especially once she tells her parents and the police about "Josh?"
-And when no one stops her from roaming around aimlessly, shooting video diaries under creepy, out of the way bridges, she doesn't once get scared that she could be in danger? I'm in my 30's, and I wouldn't be hanging out under that rapey fucking bridge, even if nothing creepy were going on in my life.
Even if Amy were naive or ignorant enough to do all of these things, I find it hard to believe that her parents or law enforcement wouldn't step in immediately to make some of these decisions for her. Then again, I cant believe that a 14 year old girl wouldn't be terrified enough to not want to leave the house ever again when the guy that she's pretty sure abducted her friend tells her "Shut your mouth... I'm watching you."
Some of it just didn't wash.
The Downright Horrendous- Now, all of that being said, it is all pretty unsettling to watch unfold. The last 22 minutes of this movie redeem most of the film, and prove to be some very hard footage to sit through. There's some terrifying imagery and actions that take place, and the ending is simply morose. It's powerful.
It shook me, and not much really jars me to the point of actually feeling real dread.
For horror fans though, if you like to be skeeved out and have been looking for a reason to never chat online again, this is it.