Slender Man | Sylvain White | August 10th, 2018
Slender Man is a monument to the Internet’s arrogance. Hyperbolic statement? I wish it were. A classic figure in internet folklore, Slender Man is the product of not just his creator, but thousands of creepypasta enthusiasts collectively contributing to the mythos. While the film marks his theatrical debut, Slender Man has previously been featured commercially in web series and video games like Slender: The Arrival, really to much greater effect. With such a disjointed and decentralized history, the tall guy never had a chance.
It all started in 2009 when a user named ‘Victor Surge’ posted his original creation on the Something Awful forums. The two images, featuring an obscured figure watching over groups of children, would go on to spark our eponymous character.
The Slender Man’s design is inherently creepy–features like elongated limbs (which become tentacle-like at will), the lack of a discernible face, and the inherent mystery are all things that simultaneously intrigue and scare people. Slender Man is the perfect representation of what the human mind projects on shadowy corners as it tries to rationalize what it’s seeing and prepare for the “unknown” threat. We’re talking real, deeply-rooted psychology here, folks. Later, pretenses were added to the character that would become common ground in the mythos, like the cryptic being’s association with the woods, and with people becoming “proxies”, or agents, of him. Also, he has become more of a neutral character, a punishment for an abusive parent or a neglectful older sibling.
All of the above is actually explained in the film, quite literally as if you were reading off the Know Your Meme page. And that’s the main problem with this movie: it’s just plain boring. While setting up all the lore, it fails to actually do the one job of a horror movie: scare people. I expected some cheap jump scares at least, but Slender Man hovers that uncomfortable horror genre line between trying to be deep and trying to be cheap. The entire plot point of “summoning” Slender Man is a direct rip off of The Ring, down to the weird fast-cut segments of maggots and other gross oddities. An interesting note is that almost the entirety of the first trailer for the film was seemingly cut. Most of the scenes, which are remarkably more violent than the final version, are completely gone or severely altered. It seems most likely that they were forced to remove scenes to maintain a PG-13 rating, which is an unfortunate choice.
While this is speculation, the decision also could have been influenced by the real events of May 31st, 2014, when twelve-year-olds Anissa and Morgan led their friend Payton to the woods and proceeded to stab her 19 times. Left for dead, Payton crawled her way out to the nearby road and got help, surviving the ordeal. The young perpetrators claimed that after finding the Slender Man creepypasta entry during their sleepover, they believed he was real and wanted to gain his affection by murdering their friend. These events were outlined in the 2016 HBO documentary film Beware The Slender Man, where it becomes more apparent that the character might have been used as an excuse, rather than a cause. Nevertheless, the terrible event and the story have become forever linked, and it makes you wonder when something of fiction actually becomes reality.
Slender Man is just far too little and far too late. Maybe if it had released years ago, during the height of the story’s popularity, it would have landed a bit better. Despite having legend Javier Botet (also in It, Crimson Peak, and Alien: Covenant, among other recent films) underneath the suit, even the creature design was poor. The only merits I can think of are the young actresses (Joey King, Jaz Sinclair, and Julia Goldani Telles), who made a solid effort with a terrible script, and the sound design of the film, which really sold the eerie nature of the woods. The glints of good ideas and creepiness amidst trite tropes fulfill the staple of the lame summer horror release. Do yourself a favor and watch that documentary instead — it’s far more frightening.