Slender Man Exceeds Low Expectations, But Still Underwhelms

Maybe you’ve heard of the Slender Man urban legend. If you’re young and hip, then you likely were familiarized with the fictional character through a creepypasta Internet meme created on the Something Awful forum by Eric Knudsen, or as he is also known, “Victor Surge”. If you’re older don’t know what a creepypasta is then maybe you heard about ‘Slender Man’ in the news following the murder of a 12-year-old girl in Wisconsin.

Now the Internet Boogeyman is making his big screen debut today. The film has been somewhat swept up with controversy. It certainly doesn’t appear that Slender Man is in any way related to the 2014 stabbing death of a 12-year-old girl by two friends who claimed to be controlled by the ‘Slender Man’. Nonetheless, the association most definitely doesn’t help. Rotating release dates and being fed to The Meg have also haunted the film.

Synopsis

Four high school best friends – Hallie, Wren, Chloe, and Katie – hear the legend of Slender Man and decide to put it to the test. After watching an online video and ‘summoning’ Slender Man, Katie becomes obsessed with the legend and mysteriously disappears without a trace. The three remaining girls are then haunted by visions of the faceless. boogeyman. Efforts to save their friend are soon abandoned when it becomes clear that the Slender Man wants them next.

Slender Man’s Story Lacks Momentum

When Slender Man hits its third and final act, the story picks up and the audience gets a sense of what might have been. For much of the movie, however, the story feels strangely aimless. Aside from the general sense that bad things will continue to plague the characters, David Birke’s script never develops a sense of urgency or ‘end game’. Many of the movie’s scary moments feel like a series of scary shorts or YouTube videos that have been cobbled together. The end result is a film that lacks momentum for much of its 90 minutes.

Despite having a wealth of Internet mythology from which to draw, Slender Man’s titular villain feels strangely underdeveloped. There’s a fine line between the mystery and ambiguity John Carpenter created with Michael Myers and being just frustratingly vague. Slender Man leans towards the latter with the film’s monster often feeling like a compilation of the character’s Internet traits rather than a cohesive myth.

Standard Jump Scares Give Way to Some Genuine Atmosphere

Director Sylvain White offers a few decent jump scares early on in Slender Man. In fact, for its first half, Slender Man easily outpaces the earlier released Truth or Dare for scares. White even builds in a rather fun use of smart phone and video conferencing technology for a clever scare. Unfortunately, White gives in to some standard Hollywood horror excesses too often. Loud noises and a generic but intrusive score are leaned on several times to produce pseudo-scares. Manic editing and some unnecessary cheap CGI effects underwhelm for much of Slender Man’s first half.

But when Slender Man enters its third act, a strange thing happens – it actually kind of gets better. White commits to and achieves a uniquely creepy atmosphere as he relies less on generic jump scares and more on some haunting imagery that’s more fitting to the digital urban legend. For its final 15 minutes or so, Slender Man actually feels scary while delivering a few memorable images that are unique to this movie rather than just a riff on The Ring or other better horror films.

A Good Concept Gets Lost in a Shuffle of Half-Baked Ideas

At the conclusion of Slender Man, the voice-over narration warns about the viral nature of ‘Slender Man’ and how stories about each disappearance feeds its legend. One gets the impression that the creative minds behind the movie had some big ideas they wanted to explore. Other movies – The Ring, most notably – have done a much better job exploring this idea. By the end of Slender Man, this theme can’t help but feel tacked on. Nothing in the movie itself justifies its mention at the end.

One gets the impression that the creative minds behind the movie had some big ideas they wanted to explore.

Sadly, this is a recurrent problem with Slender Man. Some parts of the movie, like its characters are underdeveloped, while other aspects of the movie are overstuffed, like its early scares. One can’t help but wish that White had shown a little more confidence in the material and allowed some of the scares to develop more organically. There are so many interesting directions Slender Man could have taken but instead the movie gets bogged down in a lot of half-baked ideas that get dropped soon after they’re introduced.

There’s a Good Movie Somewhere in Slender Man

Surprise, surprise … Slender Man turned out to not be a terrible film. That’s not to say that Slender Man is a good horror film, but it certainly exceeds low expectations. Unlike Truth or Dare, which never felt like more than a forgettable PG-13 horror flick, Slender Man shows occasional flickers of promise now and then. It certainly has a bit more teeth and darkness than Blumhouse’s dull horror entry. Ultimately, Slender Man isn’t good enough to recommend, but the concept behind the movie is too rich in potential scares to simply abandon. With a better script and a more stripped down approach, the ‘Slender Man’ myth could still produce a good horror film.

THE PROFESSOR’S FINAL GRADE: C+

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I am a Criminology professor in Canada but I've always had a passion for horror films. Over the years I've slowly begun incorporating my interest in the horror genre into my research. After years of saying I wanted to write more about horror I have finally decided to create my own blog where I can share some of my passion and insights into the films I love.

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