Review: ‘Slender Man’ (too thin by far)

Boring people in a boring town attempt to bore themselves to death… and us, too.

In a dying town somewhere in Massachusetts, four friends on a sleepover decide to watch an online video that will supposedly summon Slender Man (Javier Botet), a faceless entity that may or may not exist that may or may not steal children. As an urban legend akin with Bloody Mary or the video from The Ring, the first hint the legend might be real is the disappearance of Katie (Annalise Basso) during a school field trip to a cemetery. Of the three remaining friends, Wren (Joey King) seems to be the most worried about it and Hallie (Julia Goldani Telles) the least, with Chloe (Jaz Sinclair) somewhere in the middle. Each of them begin to experience nightmares and visions, leading them to wonder: is there a way to escape the monster, or were they doomed from the start?

For the unfamiliar, the urban legend of Slender Man originated online as “creepypasta,” horror-related legends or images that have been copied and pasted around the Internet. The myth solidified as key elements were distilled: an unnaturally tall man with exaggerated limbs and no face, dressed properly in a fitted black suit and tie, and has tentacle-like appendages that sway like snakes. He is a creature of shadow who stalks those who learn of him, hides in plain sight and among the trees, and reportedly collects children for an unknown purpose. The height of the meme appeared around 2012 with rumors of a film version persisting until this release, but has the Internet already forgotten Slender Man and stripped him of his shady powers?

The answer appears to be yes: the fast-paced online culture has moved on, which should have given the writers and filmmakers the unique ability to better define this monster, give it specific motivations, and bring it into focus to launch a franchise. What we got instead was less than what we already know; the word “creepypasta” is as nonexistent as the actual inspirations. The story is by-the-numbers: so-called friends complete a dare, realize what they’ve stepped into, begin to research a way to escape, big special-effects ending. Our heroic would-be victims take too long to like, too long to catch on, and are ultimately forgettable — not a good thing when your monster is a silent, featureless creature of shadow and you still need a narrative to move the plot along. This monster arrives in theaters promising too little, too late.

The soundtrack, however, is fairly effective, much of it sounding inspired by The Blair Witch Project, another freaked-out teen flick built around an urban legend albeit one of their own creation, effectively leveraging the Internet in all the ways that later made Slender Man popular before abandoning him to the next creepy thing. The visuals, sadly, are the film’s undoing, looking like a student film trying to replicate The Ring and failing to look half as effective as last year’s reboot of Stephen King’s It. With a new Halloween film coming up and a slew of new horror entries in the coming months, Slender Man is not only dated but dead-on-arrival.

Rather than shy away from its origins, a better script idea might have been exploring the ways that belief can bring something to life if enough people believe, that something terrible could spring to life and become more than the sum of its parts. That could have built upon the idea that someone could dream up an effective solution, putting emphasis on the power of will and imagination. Alas, the ending occurred before the movie ever started; too bad the victims in this narrative couldn’t have used that knowledge to their advantage in time.

Slender Man is sadly only rated PG-13 for disturbing images, sequences of terror, thematic elements, language including some crude sexual references, and stealing your money.

One skull recommendation out of four

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