Director: Andrew J.D. Robinson
Starring: Maissa Houri, Mark Templin
Review Author: Tony
Another fantastic upcoming filmmaker has reached out with their debut feature film, We are the Missing. What instantly drew me to this project was that it would be our first feature length horror on Spotlight, a genre I have mostly been exploring throughout this worldwide lockdown. Director Andrew J.D. Robinson has quite an expansive filmography of horror short films which has also received high praise and rewards. While I’ve only had the chance to view two short films at the time of this write up, I would strongly recommend checking out his YouTube channel, which you can find above with the entirety of We Are the Missing featuring in full.
One morning, when Riley (Chantel Little) should be at classes, her mother Angie (Maissa Houri) hears a cellphone ringing from her bedroom, soon to discover Riley left her phone behind. She answers what is Riley’s best friend Mackenzie’s (Willow Mcgregor) third attempt to reach someone. After Angie asks if Riley is with her, she realizes Mackenzie was about to ask the same thing. Shortly after, Angie checks the main closet and finds Riley’s shoes are still there. Did she leave in the middle of the night or vanish into thin air? Riley’s circles paint a picture of the events surrounding her disappearance while exploring leads in what becomes a harrowing mystery of twists, turns, and answers that poses the question: Was it better to not know what really happened after finding out the truth?
Shot in a mockumentary style, We are the Missing utilizes first hand interviews, second-hand accounts, video chats, confession blogs, news reports and audio logs to capture an overarching narrative with a far larger scope than I had expected. This expansive form of storytelling is enhanced by authentic performances, solid editing, and ominous music throughout. What begins as a tragic story of a missing person expands into a chilling phenomenon with a wide impact (I won’t spoil any further plot points because the unfolding story is extremely well told). Shot on a budget of $300 (Canadian dollars), director Robinson understands the effectiveness of horror through storytelling alone rather than just set pieces and spectacle. The mind can conjure fear worse than anything presented on screen, so Robinson lays the groundwork for something truly terrifying to imagine.
My initial reaction to the first 20 minutes of the film was that the documentary style was well made but flaunted story elements that just seemed brushed over or horror elements that felt oddly tacked on. What I almost mistook for amateur filmmaking was actually laying the groundwork for a far grander tale that would double back to these elements mentioned and bring it full circle. My misgivings were not justified, and it delighted me to be so wrong because the further this film went on, the more impressed I was by it. Sharing narrative similarities to Orson Welles reading of War of the Worlds, the creative vision and dense storytelling wasted not one second of this films runtime.
After sitting through some truly painful indie horror films on Amazon Prime, seeing a micro-budget horror of this quality featuring in full length on YouTube for free is amazing. We are the Missing is a gripping mystery full of twist and turns that becomes nail biting in its last act. The tone and style is not so different from mockumentary classics like Lake Mungo and The Blair Witch Project, and in some circumstances I found the film more creative in its storytelling than both these modern cult classics (can we call Blair Witch modern or am I just getting old?). If you are a fan of mockumentary or slow burn horror, I recommend giving We are the Missing a chance as it is a shining example of how creative voices can shine through despite a small budget.