Director: Sylvain White
Writers: David Birke, Victor Surge
Stars: Joey King, Julia Goldani Telles, Jaz Sinclair
Review by Anelise Farris
Slender Man is a fictional account of four girls who become dangerously involved with Slender-Man lore. At a slumber party, after a few too many shots of vodka, the girls decide to watch a Slender Man-summoning video. (The boys are doing it at their own get-together, so best not be left behind). Almost immediately the girls begin to feel like something has changed. Left more than just a little unsettled by the film, these four friends quickly start spiraling down a dark path. Their sanity depends on proving that Slender Man is not real.
Chances are you are familiar with Slender Man — either through the CreepyPasta Wiki or the Slender Man related stabbing that occurred in Wisconsin. What started as a created, photo-shopped paranormal figure quickly blew up into a whole occult phenomenon. People write fan fiction, draw pictures, and tell of their own Slender-Man-accounts. Some even claim to have been physically and mentally affected by this entity. Four years ago, two girls lured their friend out to the woods and stabbed her. The plan had been hatched at a sleepover after they discovered Slender Man. They thought that by offering a sacrifice to Slender Man he would take them under his wing (er, creepy tentacle arms?) and their families would be safe. This is (very) loosely what Slender Man the film is based on.
As mentioned, it does involve a sleepover, a group of girls, and the question of what they must offer Slender Man in order to be saved. That’s really where the similarity ends. Rather than make Slender Man a movie that pits the four girls against each other in a psychologically-fueled nightmare, the story becomes a far less interesting and overly familiar “watch the video and you go crazy” ride (The Ring, anyone?). Slender Man is far from frightening, with his spider-like appendages and generic business suit. I found myself laughing at parts that I’m certain I was supposed to be screaming at. As the movie concludes, disturbing images flash across the screen with a desperate energy that leaves you more confused than impressed.
The Slender-Man episode is a fascinating occurrence (especially for folklorists like myself!), but the film fails to tap into that. Poor cinematography and cheap thrills take away from the psychological horror that remains just out of reach. The one bright side? The girls in this film actually look like they are in high school. Not twenty-something-year-olds who are way too pretty and together for your average high-school kid. I recognized a few of the main characters, like Julia Goldani Telles (Whitney Solloway on Showtime’s The Affair), who stars as Hallie, and Joey King (Greta Grimly on FX’s Fargo), as Wren–but not even decent acting could save this film.
Verdict: Skip it.
With such compelling material to work with, it’s hard to figure out what went so wrong with Slender Man. If you’re interested in Slender-Man lore, forgo seeing the movie, and check out this equal parts informative and unsettling work available next month from two folklore pros, Trevor J. Blank and Lynne S. McNeill.