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, you likely don’t know a creepypasta from a seafood linguine. As such, you may have about ‘Slender Man’ in the news following the stabbing of a 12-year-old girl in Wisconsin and the HBO documentary that followed. After a disappointing big screen debut, the Internet Boogeyman is finally creeping up on Netflix. Despite the controversy that surrounded the movie’s production and release, the Slender Man is completely unrelated to the real-world crime. Nevertheless, the bad publicity, a rotating release schedule, and abysmal reviews all but cursed its box office potential.
Four high school best friends – Hallie, Wren, Chloe, and Katie – decide to put the legend of Slender Man to the test. After watching an online video and ‘summoning’ Slender Man, Katie becomes obsessed with the legend. Days later, Katie mysteriously disappears. No warning, no trace. Now the faceless boogeyman from the legend is seemingly haunting her friends, day and night. All the girls wanted was to save their friend. Now they’ll be lucky to save themselves.
Slender Man’s Story Lacks Momentum, Compelling Villain
When Slender Man hits its final act, the story picks up and almost gets good. Almost. For about 15 minutes or so, the audience gets a glimpse of what might have been. Too bad 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. That is, Slender Man has a very ‘cobbled together’ feeling. The end result is a movie that lacks momentum for much of its 90 minutes.
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’.
Its wandering approach to the material is exacerbated by the frustration of knowing what the filmmakers had at their fingertips. Despite having a wealth of Internet mythology from which to draw, Slender Man’s titular villain is 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. You’ll find scarier Slender Man memes than what the movie accomplishes with the character.
Slender Man Wastes Too Much Time on Standard Jump Scares
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, Slender Man gives in to some standard Hollywood horror excesses too often. For instance, the director leans heavily on loud noises coupled with a generic but intrusive score to produce pseudo-scares. Manic editing and some unnecessary cheap CGI effects underwhelm.
…Slender Man gives in to some standard Hollywood horror excesses too often.
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, the movie 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 dangers of viral media 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 the movie, 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 the storycould have taken but instead the movie gets bogged down in a lot of half-baked ideas that get dropped soon after they’re introduced.
Slender Man Hides a Good Movie Somewhere in its 90 Minutes
Surprise, surprise … Slender Man turned out to not be terrible. That’s not to say it’s a good horror movie, 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, this one 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 Internet myth could still produce a good horror movie.