Encapsulated Cinema: Megan is Missing, El Monstro Del Mar, and Grave Encounters

Megan is Missing (2011)
Writer/director Michael Goi’s hyper-creepy found footage/faux documentary certainly starts out innocently enough. Gratuitous F-bombs, uncomfortably situations involving teenagers, kids vomiting on party-going lesbians — you know, typical unrated horror movie stuff. And then, about halfway through the film, Goi throws a curve ball, one that’s forever ingrained itself into my memory. It’s a genuinely nasty image, and it’s sure to make even the hardest of genre vets cringe. If these unforgettable moments weren’t bad enough, there’s the last 20 minutes, a sinister descent into exploitation that borderlines on overkill. Of course, “Megan is Missing” isn’t interested in saving your kids from sadistic Internet predators. All the movie really wants to do is shock and horrify the audience, though it tries its best to hide behind the supposed message to justify its content. Nice try. “Megan is Missing” is disturbing, but that’s about it.

El Monstro Del Mar (2010)
If you’re the sort of uncomfortably seedy individual that enjoys watching monster movies that spend more time focused on curvy tattooed girls than the actual creature, then do I ever have the movie for you. Nothing really happens until the last 15 minutes of Stuart Simpson’s short film-turned-feature length endeavor “El Monstro Del Mar”, and, to be perfectly honest, what you get isn’t worth the wait. The film chronicles the scantily-clad adventures of three women who slice and dice their way to a grungy beachfront property, where, after ingesting copious amounts of alcohol, they clash with an otherworldly, multi-tentacled sea beast hellbent on getting some peace and quiet. What could have been a nifty “Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!” homage ends up being yet another uninspired grindhouse throwback that simply doesn’t have enough content to constitute a feature-length film. Honestly, I’d say “El Monstro Del Mar” has about 20 minutes of actual content; the rest of the film is just Suicide Girls-style tomfoolery. Even the vaguely Lovecraftian water monster isn’t worth sticking around for. Hot women and cleavage, I’m afraid, will only take you so far. Majorly disappointing.

Grave Encounters (2011)
Out of all the ridiculously awful “found footage” flicks currently available via Netflix’s streaming service, The Vicious Brothers’s surprisingly spooky endeavor rests comfortably at the very top of this cinematic heap. The fact that the entire feature is presented like one those lame ghost hunting television programs certainly works in the film’s favor, as it helps explain why the cameras continue to roll long after most of us would have pulled the plug. At its core, “Grave Encounters” doesn’t do anything different than, say, “The Blair Witch Project”, where the characters whine and cry endlessly as all sorts of horrifying things are taking place off-camera. Having a good sound system is almost essential to the film’s effectiveness, as so much of the creepiness lies in its insanely effective sound design. Even if you’ve sworn off these faux documentaries for life, “Grave Encounters” might be worthy of your precious time. It may use an old recipe, but the ingredients are undeniably fresh.