Review – ‘Slender Man’ has no idea why the internet meme is scary… or how to make a film

Poster for 2018 horror movie Slender Man

Genre: Horror
Certificate: 15
UK Release Date: 24th August 2018
Runtime: 93 minutes
Director: Sylvain White
Writer: David Birke
Starring: Julia Goldani Telles, Joey King, Javier Botet, Jaz Sinclair, Annalise Basso
Synopsis: A group of teens manage to summon the online demon Slender Man during a sleepover for a bit of fun, but soon realise they have released something very dangerous into the world.

 

 

There isn’t a millenial alive who hasn’t, at some point, been freaked out by the Slender Man. Born from the mind of online forum user Eric Knudsen way back in 2009, the Slender Man has been one of the most dominant examples of ‘creepypasta’ fiction, passing from user to user like a modern version of campfire tales and urban legends. The character has been at the centre of various web series, online stories, documentaries and gigabytes worth of fan art, but he has never been the star of a major studio movie. With that in mind comes Slender Man – a movie made by people who have chosen to ignore everything that ever made Slender Man scary.

In fairness to Sylvain White‘s movie, it has hit at a time when the Slender Man mythos is on the wane. In 2014, two 12-year-old girls stabbed a friend 19 times, almost killing her, and claimed they did it to appease Slender Man. They were each sentenced last year to several decades in mental hospitals, but the incident opened up a major debate about the effects of the internet on children. This is not the sort of climate into which a throwaway teen horror movie can thrive.

But that doesn’t excuse how shoddy Slender Man turns out to be. It’s an exhibition of frankly shocking cinematic incompetence that bears all of the hallmarks of a rush job, which is severely compromised by a studio-mandated PG-13 certificate and hasty edits made in the aftermath of the trailer’s release. Unsurprisingly, relatives of those involved in the stabbing incident were unhappy about that trailer, which panicked the studio and it was shopped to different distributors. It has now been dumped into cinemas, presumably in the hope that nobody ever stumbles upon it. Certainly no one will want to.

On the face of it, the movie simply resembles a standard jump scare fest. There’s a selection of teenage girls who summon the Slender Man during a sleepover by watching a spooky video, only for it all to get very real when one of them goes missing the next day. The protagonist is named Hallie – possibly after the comet I so desperately wanted to slam into the cinema – and her pleasantly intelligent buddy is called Wren, played by Joey King – the only person who seems to be expending any effort to make this sorry affair work. Even the creature himself, realised by immensely talented and prolific creature performer Javier Botet, comes across as decidedly unscary, like a Dementor en route to a wedding reception.

But even the shoddy acting is pushed into a distant second place in the atrocity stakes by the way the movie looks. Every frame has a sludgy, grey palette that is only intensified whenever the film decides it’s time to be scary. Occasionally, a blast of score will suggest the existence of a jump scare, despite the fact it’s impossible to make out where the beastie is lurking in the frame. The film, in fact, seems precision-tooled to rid the Slender Man mythos of any scare value. Like any urban legend, it thrives from ambiguity and from everyone having their own interpretation of the character. The film has none of that ambiguity and instead turns the internet’s most notorious bogeyman into a generic thing that goes bump in the night – if you can spot him in the frame, that is. It’s half horror movie, half Where’s Wally? book.

Pop or Poop?

Rating: Poop!

In one of the first scenes of this disastrous Slender Man movie, a character delivers the worst fake sneeze in movie history. If that doesn’t tell you that you’re watching something truly and disgracefully incompetent, I don’t know what will.

Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.

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