It’s not easy to ignore how crass and tasteless this film feels given the real-life incident which the infamous internet phenomenon gave rise to. It’s even harder when, with the release of this film, the creepypasta meme is now responsible for yet another real-life atrocity.
In a small Massachusetts town, four friends decide to summon the Slender Man by watching a weird viral video from a Slender Man internet forum. A week later, one of them disappears. Investigating her disappearance, her three friends, Wren (Joey King), Hallie (Julia Goldani Telles) and Chloe (Jaz Sinclair) discover that their friend had long been dabbling in the occult and wanted the Slender Man to take her. In the hopes of bargaining for their friend’s return, the three of them set out to summon the Slender Man once again.
There’s something so maudlin and off-putting about the way “Slender Man” has been written, performed and filmed, that it took me less than five minutes to start hoping that the Slender Man would kill them all, hopefully quickly. The writing is atrocious, time after time sounding like it had never been spoken aloud (nor was ever intended to be) until they came to film it, by which point it was too late to polish it up into something that might sound like actual people conversing with each other.
There’s something undeniably creepy about the concept of the Slender Man but, for some reason, it proves extremely resistant to expansion to a feature-length story. For most of the movie, he’s only hinted at and when he does show himself, its poorly filmed and the special effects aren’t even as good as the myriad of amateur YouTube videos which have bolstered the myth.
Director Sylvain White, a fan of the pull-back zoom and the ‘if it works once it’ll work a dozen times’ school of thought, seems convinced that playing around with the focus in scenes will somehow add the atmosphere that this relentlessly stupid horror movie so desperately needs, although he needn’t have bothered because you’ll find yourself constantly studying the background of scenes anyway – not to see if there’s a hint of the Slender Man lurking anywhere but because the foreground is so uninteresting.
Slender Man just isn’t scary enough in this movie and seems far too dependent on the sheer, unbridled idiocy of the characters in order to achieve his macabre aims. In fact, so dim-witted and fatuous are our protagonists (my favourite moment being when our heroine decides to hide from the supernatural being who can manifest, creakingly, from trees and branches by hiding from him behind…a tree), that it’s hard to respect any eldritch nightmare creature who would covet them so relentlessly. In the end, though, it’s impossible for Slender Man to be the big bad he needs to be when he never does anything anywhere near as heinous as the makers of this film have wrought.
The film ends with the ‘curiosity killed the cat’-themed warning that the Slender Man spreads like a viral idea, thriving on the interest generated by swapped tales of encounters and experiences, building his power. If that’s true, then we’ve little to worry about because this film should kill any remaining interest in the Slender Man stone dead.