The horror genre is in need of a bit of a reboot right now; a lack of fresh ideas has become something of a grind. So We Are The Missing is worth a recommend for genre fans; made for a pittance, writer/director Andrew J.D. Robinson’s debut feature may be short of staples like gore, demons or Peter Cushing, but it pushes the found-footage genre of Blair Witch in a different, more apocalyptic direction which feels right in today’s pandemic times.
We Are The Missing looks and feels like the kind of documentary you might actually find on YouTube; a series of talking heads, location shots, describing a personal tragedy. Concerned parents talk about their agony about the disappearance of their 22 year old daughter Riley (Chantel Little); the first twist comes as we find out that after filming their interviews, the parents went missing too. It becomes clear that something sinister is going on in the small town of D’Arcadia, a spider-web of strange events that leads to a state of social alienation. People are afraid to leave their houses, they begin to fear and suspect those around them, and meanwhile ordinary citizens are falling through the cracks.
This is a cerebral horror film that’s big on subtext as well as text. Robinson takes the kind of found-material approach of last year’s Searching, presenting the story largely through a video edit of interview clips, with an investigating editor putting the clues together. We listen to terrified phone calls, psychological explanations, and a key history lesson looks back to 1518 and the dancing plague that demonstrated how mass hysteria could lead to deadly results; there’s a touch of Chuck Palahnuik’s scary novel Lullaby here. All these elements are well-handled, with We Are The Missing constantly going off in unexpected directions that keep the viewer engaged.
We Are The Missing generated significant traction as a free movie on YouTube, and makes a neat alternative to the usual horror fare; there’s even a funny riff on horror-film titles that should amuse fans. While the acting can be variable at times, and the low-production values may put some potential viewers off, this is a diamond in the rough, a lo-fi montage that manages to generate unease while triggering thoughts about larger issues. Are we the missing? Are we already the victims of a larger conspiracy? In fall 2020, these are genuine questions that people ask, and society’s anxieties can be easily tapped into, making Robinson’s effective chiller relevant to today’s current mood, which is, as we cower in our homes and our connections to each other weaken, extremely dark.