Maybe you’ve heard of the Slender Man urban legend. If you’re young and hip, then you likely first heard of the fictional character through a creepypasta Internet meme. Eric Knudsen, or “Victor Surge”, created the legend on the Something Awful forum. If you’re older like me, you likely don’t know a creepypasta from a seafood linguine. As such, you may have 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. Unfortunately, the film has been swept up with controversy. It certainly doesn’t appear that Slender Man is related to the 2014 stabbing death of a 12-year-old girl. However, it was a highly publicized case wherein two young girls 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.
Four high school best friends – Hallie, Wren, Chloe, and Katie – decide t put the legend of Slender Man to the test. After watching an online video and ‘summoning’ Slender Man, Katie becomes obsessed with the legend. Soon Katie has mysteriously disappeared without a trace. Now her friends are being 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 final act, the story picks up and the audience gets a sense of what might have been. However, most of the movie feels strangely aimless. Aside from the general sense that bad things will happen to 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. Slender Man has a very ‘cobbled together’ feeling. 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 frustratingly vague. Slender Man leans towards the latter. Everything about the monster feels 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. For instance, the director leans heavily on loud noises and a generic but intrusive score 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. 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. Most importantly, Slender Man manages to carve out some unique horror imagery that doesn’t feel like a riff on The Ring or other movies.
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+