Slender Man, 2018.
Directed by Sylvain White.
Starring Joey King, Julia Goldani Telles, Jaz Sinclair, Annalise Basso and Javier Botet.
In a small town in Massachusetts, a group of friends, fascinated by the internet lore of the Slender Man, attempt to prove that he doesn’t actually exist – until one of them mysteriously goes missing.
Though there’s certainly cinematic potential in a glossy Hollywood adaptation of 2009 “creepypasta” Internet phenomenon Slender Man, Sony have immediately killed a cash-cow for themselves right out of the gate with this shockingly inept horror farce.
Borrowing cues from the iconic likes of Candyman and The Ring, Slender Man quickly establishes the presence of the titular supernatural antagonist, an offputtingly spindly, faceless being who kidnaps, kills or mentally impairs any young person he comes into contact with.
Out of nothing more than sheer boredom, four teenage girls, Wren (Joey King), Hallie (Julia Goldani Telles), Chloe (Jaz Sinclair) and Katie (Annalise Basso), decide to summon Slender Man, which of course leads to them being picked off by the creature one-by-one.
Indeed, the movie adheres pretty rigidly to the paranormal horror flick formula, complete with characters tirelessly, un-cinematically hunched over computer screens as they research the monster and wait for his next CGI-slathered appearance.
Though the gory pre-release marketing suggested that Slender Man might skew towards adult audiences, the final released product is clearly aiming for the teen set, to the extent that the apparent harsher tone has been stripped away almost entirely.
Several death scenes featured in the trailers – including one of the girls stabbing herself in the face with a scalpel – are nowhere to be seen, resulting in characters oddly disappearing out of the movie without much of an explanation at all. Furthermore, a third-act reveal falls completely flat because related scenes from the trailers were chopped from the final film.
It’s been suggested by many commentators that this may be a symptom of the significant controversy surrounding the movie’s release, considering that the Slender Man myth led to a much-publicised 2014 incident in which two 12-year-old girls attempted to stab a friend to death in order to appease Slender Man. The movie’s producers were even attempting to flog the film to other distributors such as Netflix, but alas, it’s such a radioactive commodity even they didn’t want to touch it.
So, Slender Man‘s total bloodlessness will disappoint many, but were the movie moody or intense enough, this wouldn’t really be an issue. At almost every turn the few effective flashes of promise are undone by ham-handed scripting and slack direction from Stomp the Yard filmmaker Sylvain White.
Screenwriter David Birke is not a young man by any stretch, and his attempt to write dialogue for teenage girls rouses most of the movie’s few accidental chuckles. The poor actresses, bless them, are really trying to make it all work, but what can they possibly do? Even Joey King, a talented actress trapped in the critically-panned horror doldrums as of late, gives an hysterically overcooked performance that might qualify as genuinely bad.
To be clear, there are a few sufficiently spooky moments – some home video B-roll of Slender Man attacking suburban America is genuinely well-crafted and the surreal visuals occasionally hit a fine note – but for the most part the film is too lacking in atmosphere, too jumbled and too silly to be effectively, insidiously creepy.
Had Slender Man released five-or-so years ago and had a more passionate regard for the source mythos, it could’ve been a bracing, tight little low-budget horror with easy franchise potential.
As it stands, the movie takes the lowest common denominator route wherever possible, doubling down on genre cliches, while serving up offputting protagonists who amble along to their inevitable doom over 93 snoozy minutes. And let’s not even get started on the stunningly off-kilter ending, which affords perhaps the most convincing proof that the movie was gutted and its bare bones thrown back together again.
Even as a kooky, boozed-up midnight movie, this is a pretty tough sell. Those hoping for an unintended laugh riot will be disappointed to learn that Slender Man is mostly just a flabbergasting bore.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ / Movie: ★ ★
Shaun Munro – Follow me on Twitter for more film rambling.