For a while, the doorway to the chilling world of Creepypastas was like an exclusive club open to anyone who dared to take a look. Slender Man was the character that opened the doorway to the masses, albeit for the wrong reasons. In 2014, two 12-year-old girls brutally stabbed their best friend because they believed Slender Man was real and told them to do so. This was a shocking act and the out pour of sympathy from the Creepypasta community and the creator of the character made it feel like that the popularity of Slender Man would be reeled in to let it live where it was created. In 2018 however, Sony Pictures and director Sylvain White decided Slender Man needed to be resurrected in the mainstream media, and once the film was announced, you could hear the collective “ugh” from everyone.
Slenderman is the story of four teenage friends Wren (Joey King), Hallie (Julia Goldani Teller), Chloe (Jaz Sinclair) and Katie (Annalise Basso) who after watching a video summon the Slender Man. The entity begins to terrorise their lives and… that’s it, that’s the whole film.
I do wish I could give you more details about what this film is about, but the truth is, Slender Man doesn’t really have much of a plot. Granted, you can see the situation the protagonists find themselves in against the antagonist, but that’s really all there is to it. There’s no actual objective for the protagonists to accomplish or some kind of personal struggle, I guess the closest thing to an objective is some investigation into Slender Man, but in a film like this, that’s what would be happening anyway, furthermore by the end of the film we still don’t know what Slender Man is or what he wanted. Take a film like It for example, A film with an entity that has a similar M.O to Slender Man. Pennywise had a reason for terrorizing the children of Derry, he needed their fear to feed off of. Slender Man terrorizes for the sake of terrorizing with no rhyme or reason.
A bit of a Game of Thrones tangent here, but if fans thought that The Long Night needed to turn the brightness up, they’re going to be in for a big surprise if they watch Slender Man. There are a lot of scenes that take place in a forest at night and trying to watch those scenes is impossible on the eyes. Slender Man relies on jump scares and psychedelic-like moments to maximize the fear factor in audiences, but what’s the point of a jump scare in a dark forest if we can’t even see the subject doing the scaring? There has to be some sort of mechanism in using dark lighting otherwise you’re admitting to yourself that your scene has no value. I would, in those moments, the (lack of) face of Slender Man really stand out in those sequences to A. Serve as a eerie visual and B. to leave an impression on audiences, make them think of Slender Man every time they hear the cracking sound of the trees or an unknown object in the distance.
I talked enough about the entity, let’s shift to the characters. Straight off the bat, performances in Slender Man are not that great. From the cast list, you have no idea who these people are, and the characters they’ve been tasked to portray aren’t that interesting to begin with. They group of girls are just your typical, run of the mill teenage girls you’ve seen done to death in many horror films. Which would be OK if the film didn’t take itself so seriously. Apparently, this film was made with a budget of around $10 million, I guarantee that someone out there could have made a Slender Man film for much, much less. Also, you could have this film’s same plot, but presented as a found footage film and it would have struck a bigger chord with audiences because it would have that same assumable style of the Creepypasta.
It is rare that I give any film I hate some form of credit, but I have to give it where credit it due and what Slender Man lacks in every other are of filmmaking, it slightly redeems itself in its quality usage of sound. On occasions in horror films it’s not the sight that scares you, it’s the noise. Almost everything can be made scary when you eliminate the sense of sight and this is the case with the entity Slender Man as there are very rare moments when you see the whole look of him.
I suppose the bad in Slender Man is much more obvious to see than the good, but because of the history of the character and how it has impacted people, and children as previously mentioned, the film feels distasteful. I think the character had its own time and corner of popularity and now we’ve moved on from that moment. Slender Man as a film is just very hollow, and while the sound and psychedelic-like sequences may be appetizing, it not filling.