Slender Man (2018)

AUGUST 10, 2018


I pay zero attention to "Creepypasta" type nonsense, so I never heard of the Slender Man story until I saw a news story about a pair of dumbass 12 year old girls who stabbed their friend in an attempt to appease this made-up boogeyman and "live with him in his mansion" (the girl they stabbed survived and recovered, thankfully). Since then there have been other, less severe incidents stemming from people thinking this guy is a real thing, but since they're all in jail or institutionalized Sony will have trouble reaching their target audience for their film about it, i.e. idiots that buy into the idea that he's real, which is the only way I can see anyone being scared by his presence in this woefully undercooked flick.

The main problem with the film is that it seems to assume we all know the story well, or, at least, that it's as universally known an urban legend as the man with the hook or the "calls are coming from inside the house!" kind of scenarios. But, you know, it's not - it's an internet thing with origins only dating back less than a decade ago; even "Leroy Jenkins" has a more storied pedigree. The movie gives a bit of context early on, when our group of four teenaged girls amuse themselves during a sleepover by going online and trying to summon him (prompting the usual "What's (this thing that the others know about)"/90 seconds of exposition conversation that peppers just about every supernaturally driven horror movie post-The Ring), but after that he just shows up for jump scares. Imagine if Candyman never gave Tony Todd anything to do beyond show up in underlit backgrounds, with no backstory or connection to the protagonist, and... well, you'd probably still have a better movie than this.

In fact I got the sneaking suspicion that at some point in development, the writer planned to do a fictionalized version of the real-life stabbing tragedy, but either got cold feet or was forced to change it by the powers that be (possibly even after shooting, since the trailer shows two major sequences that are not in the film). The plot really kicks off when one of the four, Katie (Annalise Basso from Oculus), disappears during a field trip to a cemetery - but the scene actually showing that (kidnapping? murder?) is jarringly absent from the film, cutting from the girl just looking at one of the tombstones to a few hours later, when everyone is wondering where she is. Given that it's only about 20 minutes into the movie - i.e. time for a traditional scare scene - its absence is very awkward, but would be necessary in the long run if one or more of the other girls had something to do with her disappearance. Plus, throughout the movie main girl Hallie (Julia Goldani Telles) seems to be dodging direct questions about the disappearance, as if she knew more than she was letting on, and apart from nightmares is conspicuously left alone by Slender Man who keeps appearing to the two remaining girls.


So it all seems to be heading toward some sort of half-assed High Tension thing (most tellingly in a scene where she tries messaging the same mysterious Slender Man website contact who has been talking to the others, only to get no reply. HMMMMM...), but then it gets dropped in a rushed, incredibly anticlimactic sequence where her sister goes into a coma for some reason and she goes off to confront Slender Man, who... sucks her into a tree, I guess? Then there's an epilogue about how he spreads like a virus, and the film ends. So did Katie get sucked into a tree too? Why did their other friend Chloe just turn into a zombie of some sort? Why was Hallie acting so suspicious every time someone asked about Katie's whereabouts? It's clunky AF, and joins the film's already overstocked collection of problems.

Such as the fact that it's not even remotely scary. And no, I'm not talking about me simply not being scared - the theater had a good sized crowd for a weekday matinee (half full-ish) with plenty of the target teens among them, and I didn't hear a single gasp/scream during the entire film (the D- Cinemascore suggests this was not an anomaly). Almost all of the scare scenes play out identically: someone hears a creaking/stick breaking kind of sound, the image gets a bit warbly thanks to a bunch of After Effects filters, and then they see Slender Man (Javier Botet, of course) standing in a corner or something before he starts to move toward them, often accompanied by CGI tentacles and/or spider-legs. Then they either wake up because it was a dream or they disappear from the narrative and our heroine seemingly doesn't care much. The only effective moment in the entire movie comes about an hour in, when Hallie starts making out with her Miles Teller-y boyfriend and starts hallucinating him making all these weird faces, which made me laugh because if they kept going and had sex, he'd just be making *other* weird faces.

Another insurmountable issue is that our characters are the least interesting batch of horror teens in ages; you'd have to go back to C-listers from the early '80s slasher heyday to find a group this less distinguished. The only girl who seems interesting is the one that disappears first, leaving us with three that might as well be interchanged from scene to scene. There's some early attempts at what you'd think would be foreshadowing, such as Hallie's running prowess and her little sister's desire to be a part of their group, but neither element is mentioned again, and I honestly know less about Hallie's other two friends (one of whom is played by Joey King, who is 0-2 lately between this and Wish Upon) after spending 90 minutes with them. And pretty much *only* them, as the male characters and parents become literal background extras as the film goes on, to the point where I wasn't sure if Hallie's mother was in the hospital or if it was just a nurse since they didn't bother to give a closeup of the woman (or names to either parent; even though Michael Reilly Burke is a familiar enough character actor he's just "Hallie's Dad" in the credits). Not that calling him "Bill" would solve the movie's problems, but if you're going to minimize every other character to this degree, why can't the ones that are in focus be more developed?

It's possible that they DID have all of that characterization and I simply couldn't see it, however. Since Peter Hyams is in director's jail I would have to go back to AVP: Requiem to find a major release film this murky and underlit, with two would-be standout sequences being so dark I literally had trouble telling what was happening. I even wondered if something was amiss with the transfer itself, but every now and then we were treated to a nice establishing shot of the northern Massachusetts locale, so I know they could photograph things properly and that it wasn't the theater projecting it wrong. And I often wondered why they even cast Botet at all since his interactions with cast members were so brief and often overshadowed by his CGI appendages, making it a pointless decision to use a real actor at all when you consider how many of his appearances are in blurry backgrounds that could have been achieved just as easily with visual FX.

You see how bad this movie is? It has me saying "CGI would be better". Ugh. The theaters in the Milwaukee area where the stabbing occurred have declined to show the film out of respect for the residents who were affected by it; it would be a good thing if every other town joined them in solidarity. So you're safe, Winchester, for this is right now the frontrunner for worst major release horror movie of the year. And don't see that as a sort of "challenge"; I assure you this is not the "fun" kind of bad like Gotti or whatever - it's just a slog. Just watch the documentary, which is what I wish I had done instead.

What say you?


  1. Are you aware that one of the "dumbass" girls who committed the stabbing was diagnosed with schizophrenia and that her belief in Slenderman is among many of her delusions?

  2. I think that's the most vitriolic review of yours I've read, I'll definitely avoid (if only because you're sounding slightly scary).


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