In a small town in Massachusetts, a group of friends perform a ritual in an attempt to debunk the lore of Slender Man. When one of them goes mysteriously missing, they begin to suspect that she is his latest victim.
Based on the internet myth, Slender Man had the potential to be an engaging exploration of horror for the internet generation. Instead, it delivers a tepid exploration of tropes we’ve seen before better executed elsewhere.
Back in 1999, the creators of The Blair Witch Project succeeded in creating a background to their fiction by creating an online world around The Blair Witch and the mythology of the curse. There was a documentary on the SciFi Channel and a website that carried articles and reports to further enhance the myth. For anyone interested in the story, there was a treasure trove of background material online for anyone willing to explore in a time when the internet wasn’t as commonplace as it is today.
The film Slender Man has come into a world where internet access is seen as an essential utility and a primary method of research. The world of Slender Man already exists online and documentaries have been made about the character, fan fiction written and crimes committed in his name. In the right hands, any film based on such enduring internet folklore could be hugely successful, hauntingly creepy and the start of a venture into new territory.
It’s curious, then, that the 2018 film is such a damp affair with poorly realised characters, disappointing scary moments and a general feeling of going nowhere. The storytelling is quite old-fashioned in its delivery and may not have felt out of place in an 80s straight-to-video horror film as we follow the group of teenage girls running around trying to unpick what happened to their friend, narrowly avoiding being victims being misled around every corner they take.
The lead characters have largely interchangeable and ill-defined personalities. It becomes disturbingly easy to forget which one of our protagonists is which, and that’s probably going to be the only distressing thing about the film. Considering the origins of the character, very little is done with the online world and it may leave Slender Man fans wondering if the film would have been better if they’d just adapted the online fiction (creepypasta) that already exists into an anthology film, V/H/S style.
Largely taking place in the black of night, it’s occasionally difficult to see what’s going on (when the characters aren’t researching on computers or reading, both of which are as exciting to watch as they sound) and this should add to the terror of the film. Instead, the filmmakers have opted to just deprive the viewer of any sense of what’s happening, adding to the whole atmosphere of disappointment. A variety of moments take place in what may be the dreams of the girls, but it’s nowhere near effective enough to really get the heart rate going and lacks the intensity of A Nightmare on Elm Street whilst the Slender Man himself, as a silent stalker, doesn’t have the presence of his cinematic forefathers, be it Jason Voorhees from Friday the 13th, The Tall Man from Phantasm or Michael Myers from Halloween. The film never settles on one idea for too long as it jumps from scene to scene in an uneven fashion trying to latch onto a scary concept that seems to be firmly out of its reach. By the time the final act comes around, there’s yet another shift in tone and we get to see Slender Man in all his glory, realising how low a budget the film had despite lofty ambitions. It does have a rather effective final sacrifice, though it’s hard to care for any of the characters and the film overall.
In the hands of a better filmmaker, the story of a creature borne of and existing in nightmares and evil could have been a breath of fresh air for modern and jaded horror fans. There’s little to recommend in the jumbled, meaningless mess that is Slender Man.
Slender Man, as a character, exists on the periphery of our awareness and that is the perfect place for this film to be too.
The BluRay edition runs at 93 minutes, with the DVD running at 89 minutes. Accompanied by a single feature – Summoning The Slender Man: Meet the Cast – we get to see a run of the mill making of feature, with the cast talking about the experience (it was a good one), the film being less about Slender Man and more about the friendship and how the film will be scary. We do discover that, for the most part, Slender Man was a physical effect, performed by Javier Botet. There are also previews for other films, which isn’t really so much a “special feature” as something that’s often on discs!
Dir: Sylvain White
Scr: David Birke
Cast: Joey King, Julia Goldani Telles, Jaz Sinclair, Annalise Basso
Prd: Bradley J. Fischer, James Vanderbilt
DOP: Luca Del Puppo
Country: United States
Runtime: 93 mins (BluRay), 89 mins (DVD)
Slender Man is out now on BluRay, DVD and digital download.