Movie Review: Slender Man

The film based on the internet boogeyman offers very thin scares

Slender Man
Directed by Sylvain White
With Joey King, Julia Goldani Telles, Jaz Sinclair, Annalise Basso, Javier Botet

Most young people will be familiar with Slender Man, a boogeyman-type character that has been popular on horror fiction websites. A movie about the character was inevitable, but even before filming began there was controversy.

Two girls in the US got so caught up in the idea of Slender Man that they believed the character was real and tried to murder a third girl to impress him. The victim survived and the assailants were convicted. Public opinion, though, held the idea of the film was in poor taste, even if the story was completely different.

It was different, but not at all original. Ripoff is the easiest way to describe it. The influence, for lack of a better word, of The Ring is everywhere.

An online video takes the place of the cursed VHS film in The Ring, as nobody watches tapes anymore.

The idea of the bored girls conjuring up some evil force together at night in a basement comes from Ouija board films.

The movie also has echoes of the recent Truth or Dare and The Bye Bye Man, with the small group of young people on the run from the evil they have conjured up. Both of those films were pretty dreadful. The use of dreams is reminiscent of The Nightmare on Elm Street.

The worst part is that is shares something in common with the recent crime bomb The Snowman — the appearances of Slender Man, like the shots of snowmen, simply were not scary in the least.

Most of the frights in Slender Man were the result of sudden loud bursts of music. Turn off the sound, and the bulk of the film is a scary as a herd of kittens.

There are a few creepy and gross moments, but the filmmakers go the its-only-a-dream well a few times too often.

The story takes place in a town in Massachusetts, and focuses mainly of four high school girls. They grow bored watching online porn in a basement one night (really) and decide to check out a site about Slender Man. They heard a rumor some boys were going to do it and want to show they are just as brave. They find a video on the site that comes with a warning.

The rest of the film is all too predictable for anyone who has seen a horror film in the past few decades.

The cast does not feature any well-known stars. Most have some experience from TV series. Julia Goldani Telles, who appeared in the Showtime series The Affair, stands out as Hallie, one of the main girls who watched the video. She at least shows a range of emotions.

The rest are pretty flat, and the thin script doesn’t help them. Little sense of who they are as people is created. There is also not a lot explained about who or what Slender Man is, where he came from, or what his motivation is.

Even his depiction is disappointing, looking like an actor with a cloth bag over his face.

The script also throws in some truly odd moments. In a science class, the students have to dissect a cow’s eye. The filmmakers are clearly trying to make a reference to the 1929 Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dalí surrealist film Un Chien Andalou. In that film, the scene of a razor across an eye is a big shock, but in Slender Man it is simply gross, and seems completely gratuitous on top of the everything else that is going on.

Director Sylvain White began his career with the 2006 direct to video I'll Always Know What You Did Last Summer, which has a rare 0 percent rating on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes. His best-received film is The Losers, an action comedy based on a comic book starring Idris Elba, Chris Evans and Zoe Saldana. It still only reached 49 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.

Films about girls accidentally conjuring up something evil can still be effective. The recent Spanish horror film Veronica, with Catholic school girls playing with an Ouija board during an eclipse, scored with the critics. It played at a film festival in Prague and has been available on Netflix, where many people have been so scared they couldn’t finish watching it.

Slender Man might also have people tuning out before the end, but for completely different reasons.

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