Courtesy of Sony
What started as a meme created by an online folklorist, Slender Man quickly took the world by storm upon its induction into the depths of the world wide web. For awhile, you couldn't make it through your Twitter or Facebook feed without seeing some variation or tale of the creature. It helps knowing that backstory heading into Sylvian White's “Slender Man,” whose titular character is a tall and gangly creature (hence the term “Slender”) trying desperately to be this generations Candy-Man. He does this by praying on innocence and youth, specifically in teenagers. The fictional creation only gained more notoriety in 2012 when a pair of 12 year old girls attempted to murder one of their classmates at a slumber party and told authorities that Slender Man made them do it.
That mythology is spooky enough, and with all this at their disposal White and screenwriter David Brike can't seem to produce anything sans routine jump scares, and boring characters that are woefully underwritten. Why wouldn't you want to explore the background of what makes Slender Man tick? Maybe he was abused as a child and could be reconciled for the best? Perhaps an offering of sweet apple pie could win over his heart? I wouldn't know, because “Slender Man” never defines the character that lends its name to the movie.
The plot, as it stands, borrows a notch or two from “The Ring” playbook. In that film, the characters watched a killer VHS tape and then met their demise seven days later via a little girl - with long black hair – who would crawl out of their TV, “Slender Man” employs a similar tactic, but with YouTube videos. The difference is one was effective and scary as hell, the other has a man dressed in a poorly made tuxedo.
To further put into perspective how lazy Birke's script is, the town in which this takes place is so anonymous it doesn't even have a name. As for the squad who will eventually walk down the rabbit hole of Slender Man's schemes, they're about as one dimensional as you'd expect. Our final girl is Hallie (Julia Goldani Telles) who is, like, so in love with this guy named Tom, and is a track star. Joey King is Wren, the slacker of the bunch and Jaz Sinclair's Chloe beams with the most life of the group. That is until they summon the showbiz creep himself.
When their friend, Katie (Annalise Basso) goes missing during a school field trip, her friends can only seem to come up with one explanation: the phantom must've taken her. They deduce this by invading her laptop and find it opened to a shady website, where people posted viral videos of their encounters with the faceless beast. This spells doom for the rest of the gang, because once you see him lurking in the corners, you've already been selected.
Slender Man carries out his business in many ways: Mental instability, suicidal tendencies and is even a “bio-force” like that of a computer virus, who inhabits electronic devices. The horror! You'd think the writers could devise some sneaky ways for these characters to die, but aside from a couple of nasty nightmares, they really get off easy (one scene takes place where the characters are dissecting pig eyes in a biology class, and I was waiting for something gruesome to happen). C'mon White! Show me death by PIG EYE.
Alas, if you set the bar really low, ”Slender Man” can deliver some mild and suspenseful PG13 thrills (a sequence inside a library hints at the claustrophobic nature and scares Birke promised from the start). Then again, editor Jake York doesn't do White any favors by piecing this together in frantic motion, not allowing any of the scenes to breathe or build suspense, giving the illusion of a misunderstood picture. Plus the film was shot in bleak colors, as to conceal its cheap visual effects from public humiliation.
I guess if you don't have it, don't flaunt it.
And “Slender Man” doesn't have it.