"Slender Man, Slender Plot"
SLENDER MAN is a derivative, teenage-oriented horror movie about four teenage girls stalked by a dark, faceless figure after watching an online video. As the girls begin disappearing, can the characters save their friends, and themselves, from the malevolent force?
This movie was created to highlight an abhorrent, occult Internet meme that has resulted in the deaths of several young people, but mostly uses suspense and a spooky mood rather than violence or gore. Poor character development, bad writing and corny special effects give the movie fewer chills than unintentional laughs. The overall quality is like a cheap B-movie, but without any of the enjoyable campiness. Most teenagers probably will be bored, and many adults will have seen it all before.
SLENDER MAN starts off as four teenage girls (Wren, Hallie, Chloe, and Katie) decide to watch a video on an online forum that will supposedly summon the Slender Man, a mysterious and faceless figure who wreaks havoc in people’s lives. The video is clearly a ripoff of THE RING’s video, complete with random “disturbing” images that deeply impact the girls (but not the viewer). When their friend, Katie, goes missing a week later during a school trip to a cemetery, they realize their slumber party prank has invaded their real lives.
After snooping around Katie’s laptop, they discover she’s been researching Slender Man and that there’s an entire subculture of people who post videos and talk about their experiences. . . for a while, at least. Wren (Joey King) says, “It’s like a computer virus, but instead of your hard drive he infects your head” and “it only ends in insanity or death.”
An online contact named “AlleyKat93” tells them they must sacrifice something they love to Slender Man in order to get Katie back. The girls dutifully walk into the dark, creepy woods alone, but they foolishly remove their blindfolds, even though they’ve been told that seeing Slender Man’s “face” will give him power over them. Soon, the Slender Man starts making himself appear, with distorted sound and the picture suddenly glitching like THE RING or THE GRUDGE, and every other example of this horror movie sub-genre. More people, including Hallie’s little sister Lizzie, get pulled into the circle. Can the girls save her, or will the Slender Man reap all their souls?
The movie’s most entertaining part probably is counting the derivative elements from movies the filmmakers rip off, such as THE RING and THEY LIVE. The movie also contains elements of THE GRUDGE, NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, the first two BLAIR WITCH movies, the 1992 version of DRACULA, and numerous other horror flicks that did the same thing this movie seeks to do, only better.
SLENDER MAN is not just derivative, but it stole the worst parts of the horror genre. It’s the kind of film where the character hears a noise and says, “Hello?!” and there are at least seven jump-scares, one every few minutes. The video montages that are supposed to drive the girls insane are dull, and the dialogue is sometimes genuinely laughable.
There are only two or three scenes that truly work, including one where a teenage boy is transformed from a lover into a predator. In two cases, the Slender Man appears in an understated way, without the girls noticing, harkening back to the best of classic spooky, supernatural horror movies. Sadly, this hardly lasts a whole scene, and the spooky mood is soon gone.
A major problem with the movie is that the plot twists simply don’t hold up. [SPOILERS FOLLOW] For example, when the girls learn the only way to save Hallie’s younger sister is to let Slender Man take them, they agree. For a moment, viewers hear echoes of Christ’s words in John 15:13, “Greater love hath no man than this, than to lay down his life for his friends.” However, when Hallie goes into the woods and screams, “Take me,” she then immediately runs the opposite direction when Slender Man comes to get her. So much for this movie’s version of self-sacrifice.
The acting is largely competent but uninspired, except for Taylor Richardson, who brings the most out of her role as Lizzie. The musical score is subdued and mostly forgettable. Also, the cinematography is dark, as if the movie itself is so embarrassed by its threadbare plot that it’s trying to hide the narrative.
Finally, the movie’s non-ending dissolves into a pretentious narration about how Slender Man spreads his evil by the attention we give him and that talking about him is spreading “his word,” enabling him to infect even more people. However, the plot isn’t developed enough to guess what “Slender Man” is supposed to represent. It’s just an attempt to turn a paint-by-numbers horror movie into a deep commentary on human nature and society – and set up a sequel.
The movie features a strong occult worldview, with elements of paganism, foul language, scary violence, and sex, mitigated slightly by some overt Christian references. For example, besides the biblical quote cited above, there’s a church sign saying, “God is listening to your prayer.” Though the characters try to stop the spooky spirit, the movie’s ending just sets up viewers for a sequel. Therefore, MOVIEGUIDE® finds SLENDER MAN to be unacceptable but not totally evil.
SLENDER MAN is about four teenage girls who are hunted by a faceless bio-electric monster after they watch an online video as a slumber party prank. Soon, the girls begin going missing or seeing the CGI-generated figure everywhere they go. They’re told they must sacrifice something meaningful to Slender Man, so he’ll leave them alone, but it fails. As a result, more people are drawn into his net. Can they stop Slender Man from killing them all?
SLENDER MAN’s worldview and production value leave a lot to be desired. The stilted dialogue and poor special effects make many scenes unintentionally funny. Aside from a few scenes with a church, a biblical quote from Jesus, and an image of the Virgin Mary, the imagery is dark and occult. So, the movie’s worldview is replete with occult rituals to summon otherworldly beings. Finally, the movie is both derivative and dull, and the acting mostly uninspired. Though the characters eventually try to stop the villain, the movie’s ending just sets up viewers for a sequel. Therefore, MOVIEGUIDE® finds SLENDER MAN unacceptable but not totally evil.