The legend of Slender Man has become one of the most famous creepypastas, and if you don’t know what a creepypasta is it’s pretty much an internet-based urban legend for the social media generation. In 2014 these legends came to a head when the Slender Man inspired a 12-year-old girl to kill two of her friends in real life. Naturally this created mass appeal and interest in the being which inevitably led a film to be green lit. Four years after the infamous Slender Man murders we finally have that film. However, the movie also comes several years after interest in creepypastas started to fade. All the same Slender Man seems like it would be a perfect subject for a horror movie with extensive mythology behind it. So, does this horror movie live up to the legacy of its namesake or does it spoil that potential on cheap thrills? Let’s take a look. This is my review of “Slender Man”.
WHAT’S IT ABOUT
“Slender Man” is based on the fictional character originated by Victor Surge (real name Eric Knudsen) in 2009. The film focuses on four friends, Hallie (Julia Goldani Telles), Wren (Joey King), Chloe (Jaz Sinclair), and Katie (Annalise Basso) who are inspired to examine the legend of Slender Man and eventually view an online video used to summon the being. Believing it all to be fake the friends go on with their lives until Katie suddenly goes missing. Hallie, Chloe and Wren begin to investigate Katie’s disappearance and discover that she delved even deeper into the Slender Man’s legend hoping to summon him to escape her alcoholic father. As the girls begin to realize the legend may be true they each become haunted by Slender Man, experiencing hallucinations and at times direct contact with the being. As the remaining friends try to escape their fate they come to realize that avoiding Slender Man may cost them more than they are willing to pay.
I need to preface this section admitting there is A LOT wrong with “Slender Man”, but there are also some redeemable qualities as well that keep it from being a complete waste of time. “Slender Man” is not really a scary movie, in fact it’s rarely truly frightening but when it does capitalize on the fear factor it does it well. By far the best scene in this entire film is the library scene which see’s Joey King’s Wren (shown above) come face to face with Slender Man causing her to question what’s real, what’s not and how to escape. This one scene for me defines just how much better this movie could have been as a whole. There are a few moments that do take advantage of Slender Man as a spooky creature, like seeing his shadow in the background and watching him aperate into rooms, but the library scene combines great suspense, atmosphere and terror-inducing imagery that disorients the viewer as much as the victim. It’s a fun scene that feels unique and specific to “Slender Man”. It’s an interesting cinematic moment and sadly the rest of the film doesn’t really stack up the same way.
That’s not to say there are no other redeemable factors to “Slender Man”. In my opinion it has good intentions and some interesting cinematography and shooting choices were made to capture the confusion and chaos the main characters are feeling as Slender Man makes a bigger impact on their psyches. Dolly zooms and body cameras provide interesting camera shots that add a special, somewhat artistic and much needed, special touch to the presentation. The excellent use of these shooting formats had me thinking that there was a much better idea behind the “Slender Man” movie that was just never realized at the end of it all. I also appreciated the design of Slender Man. The film ditches the classic look of a faceless man in a suit for a much creepier and more cinematically appropriate look that makes his body more elongated and his physical appearance reminiscent of a solid black cloud with claws. I actually thought Slender Man himself was pretty scary and he gets decent enough screen time to make his mark. The fact that we only know the bare minimum about his motives and abilities also adds to what little charm this movie has because it makes the possibilities endless. The story doesn’t paint the characters or Slender Man into a corner. The “Slender Man” movie doesn;t have a whole lot of great things going for it, but while this film fails in many ways I can safely say there are aspects that are worth enjoying and hint at how “Slender Man” could have actually been something great in better hands.
WHAT DIDN’T WORK
The problem with “Slender Man” is that despite the promise shown at times in the film it’s still an incredibly derivative rehash of horror movie clichés with little originality. It’s really hard to defend “Slender Man” as anything more than a cheap horror movie trying to milk what’s left of its titular character’s relevance. There’s not a whole lot of imagination here. Most notably “Slender Man” is pretty much a modern-day carbon copy of “The Ring” from the use of a video to kick the plot into gear to the disturbing imagery used to represent the terror these characters are facing from this mysterious entity. The difference is with “The Ring” it all seemed fascinatingly bizarre and organic to the theme and tone of the movie. With “Slender Man” it feels forced and only feels’ strange because it’s random and odd just for the sake of being odd.
Despite its rare moments of decent horror and camera work “Slender Man” is all over the place. It feels like director Sylvain White and writer David Birke really weren’t sure what they wanted to do with the Slender Man character and his legend and the resulting product is a messy mishmash of modern and classic horror movie tropes that feel dated and fail to blend as a cohesive or coherent story. The only reason “Slender Man” is even watchable, and yes it IS in fact watchable, is because its derivative nature gives it a certain familiarity. We’ve seen this all before and liked it so seeing it again doesn’t necessarily feel boring, it’s just unoriginal.
Finally the acting doesn’t help either by any means as there really aren’t any great performances in this movie and the script is incredibly cliché and bland. These young ladies are the same typical horror movie characters we see in pretty much every genre movie and the script covers all the bases without even the shadow of an attempt to try to be anything more than the most basic of horror features. There’s very little character development what development we do get is as forced as it gets. As I sat there watching “Slender Man” I found myself thinking that when considering the acting, the waste of potential, and the mere glimpses of greatness mixed in with the undeniable mediocrity of the story this would have been better suited for a Netflix release than a theatrical run. Simply put, aside for the exceptions I mentioned earlier “Slender Man” is a dull retread of tired ideas that is more boring than fun and feels to be well beyond its time.
There’s not a whole lot left to say about it. “Slender Man” is an easy movie for me to review because it’s poorly executed and poorly written but does offer the bare minimum substance that kept me engrossed even if I was left wanting much more than I got. Let’s be real, “Slender Man” is a mess and not a good movie. It’s barely more than a shell of what it could have been containing just enough to keep you from being unbearably bored. “Slender Man” is a perfect example of what happens when a worn-out character and legend is put in the hands of uninspired filmmakers with a cast that is sadly noncommittal to their roles. I can’t say I was bored watching it, but I’ve seen it all before. “Slender Man” is light on scares and even lighter on substance despite having a very select few aspects that stand out. I still love the library scene, the design of Slender Man himself, and some of the camerawork choices but otherwise “Slender Man” is incredibly forgettable. Maybe four or five years ago and given more creative minds “Slender Man” could have been a huge success utilizing a relevant legend worthy of the cinematic treatment. Today however, and in this form, “Slender Man” offers little to nothing worth experiencing that you couldn’t experience elsewhere with much better results.