There is something bracingly confident, in retrospect, about Unfriended, which plays out the boring acts of typing and scrolling in real time, the frustrations of trying over and over to click on things that cannot be clicked on. (Because it’s got a virus and that virus is ... a ghost.) In classic horror style, what is unseen in that film is often more frightening than what is seen, and what is seen is limited by the format. While it’s a thriller rather than a horror film, Searching, too, moves deliberately, making limited and effective use of hidden cameras, streaming, and other avenues that allow a found-footage style (more similar to Paranormal Activity or The Blair Witch Project) to take over from a pure screenlife style.
Much of Missing, however, particularly late in its story, is more a found-footage film than a screenlife film. It doesn’t rely on messages, chats, forums, or that dance of typing and scrolling — it shows you a regular scene, but from the perspective of a camera that exists inside the story.
Missing is not a bad film; it’s a good film. It’s smart, Reid is terrific, the thriller elements are gripping, the twists are surprising, and some of the moments in which June outsmarts people who are trying to cut her off from information she needs are highly satisfying. At the same time, it feels, in a way that’s a bit deflating, like a regression to the mean, where the repetition of this format across films (with perhaps greater and greater box-office expectations) makes them less and less formally interesting.