Back in 2009, ‘Something Awful’ forum user Eric Knudsen (aka Victor Surge) created a character that would take off in more horrifying ways than could ever be imagined. Initially produced as a Creepypasta Internet meme; the tall, faceless, child consuming, suited, entity has become ingrained in the public consciousness as a modern myth in many ways but with such popularity has come tragedy. Most notably the much-publicised 2014 Waukesha, Wisconsin case, that saw the attempted murder of a young girl by her two friends, who attested they did it for Slender Man. This unsettling reality has resulted in a degree of controversy around the making of this film but the worst thing about Slender Man is not any bad taste behind its existence, rather than its inept attempts at creating something onscreen anywhere near as terrifying as the character himself or the real events surrounding him.
Slender Man starts off rather conventionally and – with more than a hint of The Ring – actually boasts some promise in its ‘viral virus of the mind’ concept but this idea of fear being spread through technology like a virus (think a more technological Freddy Kruger) never really is capitalised upon by a flaccid screenplay, which trudges on but only gets more and more lost in the dark woods of drabness, the longer the film continues. Eventually what we get is an array of sinister imagery that really fails to chill and mostly just feels like plot-filling shock tactics that either leave you puzzled or (worst of all) are unintentionally humourous.
The tree cracking and bell tolling sounds do great work in creating an atmosphere but the more in your face things get, the less effective any of it feels. This figure is most certainly a disturbing creation but this film fails to conjure up any sequences as tense as the notorious online game a few years back based on the character or indeed anything as haunting as reality. The film is at its best when using select YouTube clips or the aforementioned atmospheric sounds but sadly these techniques are not enough to compensate for the films many damning issues. Ramin Djawadi and Brandon Campbell’s score feels under-used and overpowered by audible hums, the dull story feels toothless and the characters push the boundaries of idiotic decision-making (I can accept that more than most but here it gets silly).
The cast has a go but many of their parts fail to leave a mark and some of the dialogue is clunky. Even the title figure is not used quite right as he plays second fiddle to the previously mentioned ineffective visual parlor games that fail to raise a screech from audiences.
Perhaps it all boils down to the reported issues of the studios losing faith in the project, or their interference in butchering the film to make it suitable for a PG-13 release in America or the fact that the film arrives nearly 10 years after the horror character first appeared online so this is a late use of the online hype. Whatever the case may be, Slender Man is watchable but forgettable and that disappointingly makes it unworthy of the recent legacy of its antagonist. Slim as the chances may be, perhaps one day Slender Man will get another shot at cinema, after all, the likes of Ouija got redeemed with Ouija: Origin of Evil, so what’s to say Slender Man won’t some day?
Until then, if you really want a lasting film that captures the fear, dark influence and twisted lore of this character, I recommend you check out Irene Taylor Brodsky’s infinitely superior 2016 documentary Beware The Slenderman, which covers the creation, popularity and impact of Slender Man, as well as the aforementioned 2014 incident.