Logo for Byte Magazine at Ball State University

Were you honestly expecting ‘Slender Man’ to be any good? If so, why?

by Emily Reuben I guess it’s 2009 and I’m back in middle school, because Slender Man is a thing again… kind of. Remember Marble Hornets? Yeah, they were pretty cool. I watched each upload religiously and blabbered to my friends about Slender Man during each lunch period because, yes, we were the weird kids. What about that Slender game? It was basically Five Nights at Freddy’s in terms of popularity and spooky factor. That was always fun to make an unsuspecting, skittish friend play at night. Man, wasn’t Slender Man the coolest guys? We should totally bring that myth back. Oh, but not through witty Creepypastas or some cool online video made by actual fans. No, no, Hollywood will get it right…right? Who asked for this movie? Considering that Slender Man’s popularity has largely passed and many kids probably don’t know who he is, who was this made for? Old fans? New fans? Are the kids these days still talking about Slender Man? Were there mobs in the street demanding a new Slender Man movie? The last time I saw the myth in the mainstream was in 2014 after two 12 year old girls randomly stabbed their friend as a “sacrifice to Slender Man”.  Now, anything I see about Slender Man usually relates to that case, or the documentary made about it, Beware the Slender Man, which by the way, is a much better movie and one you should definitely watch. My point is that the time to capitalize on this faceless fiend has long since passed.

How to make a supernatural stalker boring

Immediately when I walked into a theater of about 10 people on opening night, I knew that these people were either here as a nostalgic joke or were too young to have been very active online when the myth was aggressively circulating the internet and just came to see a random scary movie. However, I think the latter were disappointed at just how not scary this movie was, and the former were just left underwhelmed. Why do I say this? The theater was dead silent. Every jump scare, Slender Man encounter, or instance of dumb teenage hijinks were met with total indifference.
Image from IMDb
What is this movie about? Well Slender Man…kind of? I mean he’s there kidnapping teenagers and whatever, but…it’s all very strange. In this iteration of the myth you have to actively summon Slender Man by watching some viral video with random illuminati symbols and forest imagery. It’s basically a rip-off of The Ring. However, don’t think the film has enough self-awareness to realize it’s less The Ring and more of a Rings experience. Anyways, a group of teenage girls decide to watch the video because it sounds creepy, and that’s what teenagers do. Afterwards, they all start having nightmares and experiencing some paranoia which culminates in one of the girls going missing. Eventually they piece together that the weird video may just be behind the disappearance and that the Slender Man is the culprit. How do they find this all out? Some random person on messenger tells them. I’m dead serious. Well whatever, they sound legit! Next step, do what this random chick says, walk around alone in the woods wearing a blindfold, and offer up something you love as sacrifice. Apparently Slender Man is some sort of demon now. Really from here the rest of the film is the friend group trying to get their missing friend back while also warding off Slender Man from taking the rest of them. There’s some spooks, some dumb drama, and an unimpressive twist. It’s not exciting; I promise. That’s the worst type of horror movie: the boring ones. This film is a complete drag to sit through. Yeah, there is some unintentionally funny things to laugh at here and there, but the entire middle of the film is just…nothing. There is no real plan of action and no indication of where the story will go.  It’s like the writers spent all of the time working on the beginning of the film and didn’t think about what the outcome would be once Slender Man starts to become a real threat. It’s all very sloppy.

I wanted Slender Man to kill these people so I could leave the theater

The plot is uninteresting and poorly executed, but do the characters save the show? No. They actively make it worse, actually.
Image from IMDb
The mannerisms of some of these characters are just so odd. Once their friend Katie goes missing they all walk around at night, go into the woods, conceal evidence from the police… you know everything that wouldn’t actually aid in finding Katie at all. The character’s say they are concerned, but I just don’t really feel it. It feels more like a game to uncover the supernatural rather than an actual quest to find a friend. Individually the characters are just terrible. They have no real defining characteristics. Honestly, they are so bland and forgettable I’m having a hard time even writing about why they are so boring because I struggle to think of ways to explain them. They are all almost identical. I don’t want to pick on child actors… but I’m going to pick on child actors. Our lead, Hallie (Julia Goldani Telles), was just astoundingly boring. The best way to describe her demeanor is “mildly inconvenienced” throughout the entire movie. For example, the drunk father of her missing friend illegally enters her home to harass her, but she doesn’t think to call the police until everything has escalated to a dangerous point. Hallie just stands with an intruder in her room and has a nice conversation like it’s all normal. There is a scene when Slender Man literally crashes through a window and she just stands there with a Kristen Stewart-esque blank stare. The only real shift is towards the end of the movie, but by this point I had no connection to the character and couldn't care less what happened to her.
Image from IMDb
To contrast this, Wren (Joey King), overacts way too much. She’s definitely trying her hardest to come off as paranoid, but she just kind of seems like she’s on some sort of caffeine high. It’s also implied that she has a problem with Hallie for some reason? But it’s so sporadic and random that it really just feels like a producer said, “They’re teenage girls; throw in some drama!” At least that’s better than staring blankly the whole movie. Props to her for actually emoting. While I wouldn’t necessarily call her performance good, she is definitely the best actor in the film. The other cast members are largely forgettable. Another girl in the friend group has the most hilarious scream I’ve ever heard in my life, and that’s the most interesting thing about her character. Hallie’s sister is used as a lifeless prop. The parents are there for a few scenes and then gone. Other students… exist. Everything about these characters are bland and forgettable, perfect analogies for the film overall.

I guess Slender Man is a demon now

Now, I’ve been perusing the internet for a long time. I was also once a teenager who actively searched for creepy stuff to keep me awake at night. I’ve played the Slender Man games, watched Marble Hornets, including the other terrible movie based on the web series, seen parodies, read the forum posts… I’m familiar with Slender Man. I’m not exactly sure the writers really understand why he’s scary in the first place. To be fair, the Slender Man myth wasn’t created by an individual; he was crafted by an entire community. This means the lore isn’t exactly concrete, but this iteration makes Slender Man some lame demon rather than a manipulative stalker. Why make him tied to some religious ceremony? There are random religious symbols scattered throughout the film for no reason. Even the video to summon Slender Man features church bells because that’s kind of creepy I guess. Everytime a shot lingered on a church or religious image I just found myself asking, “Why?” It’s never expanded on and feels largely out of place considering Slender Man isn’t a religious monster. My guess is that a demon figure seems like an easy way to play on the fears of religious movie-goers and make the monster seem more scary. Really it just seems pandering and ill-thought out.
Image from IMDb
The most annoying part of making Slender Man a demon-like figure is that he is now summoned. As in, you actively have to seek Slender Man out to be in danger. Here’s an easy solution: don’t. Slender Man is scary because there is no real rhyme or reason for his appearance. One day you might suddenly dream of a faceless man and then see him in the shadows eventually driving you into insanity. Trust me, if Slender Man decided to stalk you, he wouldn’t need your stupid iMovie video to help him out.   A ritual also implies that there is some way to defeat Slender Man… but the thing is, you can’t. That’s the point. He’s a monster that is pretty much invincible. The movie implies that you can just sacrifice something and he’ll just leave. That’s cool of him. The film really doesn’t know how to make Slender Man a real threat. Even when he’s right in a character’s face it’s not really intimidating. The visions people have of Slender Man are kind of like the ones the kids in IT have when they see Pennywise but done without skill or charm. There are a few instances when a lead will answer a FaceTime call to see a first-person video of someone watching them from their window or walking through their house, but in reality,  there is no one there. This is kind of a cool concept, but really all I could think about was Slender Man standing outside a window holding his iPhone X trying to get the perfect shot. The whole thing just comes off as comical, just not comical enough to warrant paying for a movie ticket. Look, I get it. You may have some nostalgia for Slender Man. You may just be in the mood to see a scary movie. Either way, save your money. Don’t help fund this movie. Go watch Marble Hornets instead. At the very least, wait until you can watch it for free with some snarky friends. Either way, Slender Man should stay hidden in the woods so I don’t have to watch another terrible movie based off him.
Featured image from DigitalSpy