In this age of social media and internet everywhere, we are all obsessed with screens – you are currently even staring at one while still trying to figure out whether this text is worth the effort! But the screen in front of you could also be the stage for a movie like Missing:
Missing is a representative of a very special kind of film genre, in which there are only a handful of films, despite their incredible financial successes: A so-called screenlife thriller, where all the events are shown on a computer, tablet or smartphone screen. This unique approach to visual storytelling makes screenlife movies the quintessential Gen Z movies as they reflect the growing impact of the Internet and electronic devices. Although Screenlife is not a genre but a storytelling device it is strongly connected to horror and thriller as this kind of movies redefine how the internet age and all it’s opportunities and dangers translate to film.
Screenlife movies explore how our digital personas differ from who we are offscreen. They turn familiar online landscapes like TikTok, Instagram or Google Mail into canvasses for storytelling. And with Missing, there’s the most nuanced depiction of life online as it highlights the disconnect between a daughter and her missing mother and how both of them actually present themselves online: June is tasked to pick up her mother and her new boyfriend Kevin at the airport, but they never show up – and after contacting the authorities and being frustrated by the lack of progress, June starts her own investigations. She is deeply convinced that somewhere between Google Maps, Facebook Messages and the search history of her missing mum some clues will be found. During her research June learns that Kevin is not the nice guy he pretended to be but a pitiful dirtbag with a criminal record of scamming women for their money.
With an estimated budget of $7 million dollar, Missing is the most expensive screenlife movie so far and also another financial success with more than $30 million dollars worldwide and counting. In 2014, Unfriended was the first popular screenlife movie with a budget of around $1 million dollar and a box office of $64 million dollar. In 2018, Searching made even more money with over $75 million dollars on an estimated budget of just $700,000 dollars. Despite or even exactly because of its limitations, this new way of making movies resonates with the audience and even more surprising the screenlife format didn’t go stale as the true master/mistress shows himself/herself in the limitations of means.
Missing is definitely a film about small screens that feels best when watched on the biggest screen there is, your beloved cinema. Just don’t think too much about the countless ways you would’ve solved this case with all the latest technology at your fingertip.