For those that don’t know, Slender Man is a creepy-pasta. It means a copy pasted story that people share on internet forums. It’s essentially the digital version of those urban myths people used to tell around campfires like Bloody Mary. His origins date back to a 2009 Photoshop competition. The creator Eric Knudsen placed a tall figure in pictures of children playing with creepy text underneath. From there the fascination with Slender Man grew, and many people tried to tell their own stories with the character. There are many types of Slender Man stories with diverse mythology.
However, the main thread that runs through all of them is that he is a tall, slender figure with a blank face and suit. He is also responsible for the disappearance of children, and the mental warping of other individuals he comes into contact with. Due to the way that the internet works, however, 2009 may as well be 1909. So when Sony announced they were making a film about Slender Man, I think most of our reactions where; “oh yeah, Slender Man”. So can this Hollywood movie breathe new life into this undead IP or is it better off lost in the woods.
Four friends are bored on a Friday night in a sleepy American town. Wren, Hallie, Chloe and Katie, decide to pass the time by summoning the mysterious figure of Slender Man. They follow the steps provided on the forum, but they get more than they bargained for. The faceless being torments four friends and leads them in a merry dance to their gruesome end.
First I have to admit that the Slender Man film is stylish. The cinematography, by one Luca Del Puppo, is incredibly pretty. It has an excellent use of contrast and camera movement in the more creative sections. Similarly, Jake York the editor, along with Del Puppo’s shots, makes the dream sequences and the more artistic elements if not entertaining then visually appealing, even if we have seen similar things before.
This does not, however, make the film good or scary. It may look great, but inside it is as hollow as a rotten tree. It is clear that the film wants to have It Follows levels of atmosphere with a Stranger Things mystery. But thanks to an amateurish understanding of plot and character the film feels disjointed. Things happen because they must. The machinations of the villain do not drive the story, neither does the morbid curiosity of our characters. So it just drifts from cliched scare to jump scare, mainly focused out to the audience rather than our “characters” who do not behave or talk like real people. In amongst this predictable rambling narrative are some exciting music video-esque sequences thrown in to break up the monotony.
The most frustrating thing is that there is a creativity in Slender Man, but it is not in the writing. We have a great shot of a shadow moving behind the girls slowly while they discuss Slender Man on a laptop, which is a cool shot in itself. However, the structure of the film focuses on these cool looking things. It does not have a plot, it has set pieces; like the library, the woods, the hospital and the dreams, but these sequences feel disconnected from each other. It’s almost as if this is a demo reel for the cinematographer and editor, who made high-end Youtube videos and are trying to go professional.
Slender Man shows its internet origins in the same way that the 50 Shades franchise does. It has professionals trying to make it look good, and there are some fascinating glimpses at what it could have been, but that doesn’t hide the dodgy angsty 12-year-old fanfiction that it calls a story.
You can watch Slender Man in cinemas now