Slender Man hasn’t been relevant in internet culture for years. Remember how back in 2012 Slender Man was all of the rage? Youtubers were going nuts over Slender: The Eight Pages, there were a bunch of fan games, and then the whole thing just kind of disappeared in a month or two. The internet moved on, and Slender Man was just a brief fad that unfortunately had some unsettling real-life consequences. But at the end of the day, this was a property thing that nobody cared about since 2012.
So of course Hollywood decided to make a Slender Man movie in 2018, six years after the fad. Sure, why not. And of course it would be a cheapo horror movie made on a small budget. But what really surprised me is that I felt nothing while watching this. Not in the sense that I wasn’t scared, because that was a given, but more that I didn’t feel anything about the movie. I’m not raging. I’m not sad. I just don’t feel anything. And at the end of the day, I think that apathy is the worst thing I could feel after seeing a movie. Slender Man gives me nothing. I can’t even lie and fake that I’m angry.
Director: Sylvain White
Release Date: August 10th, 2018
Real talk for a minute. As I was putting in the video above so you all had a frame of mind about what was happening in the movie, I realized something that I hadn’t noticed before. First, most of the scenes in this trailer don’t appear in the movie. I’m not surprised by that, but what I am surprised at is how it outright spoils the fate of several characters. Why is that shocking? Because we never see in the movie what happens to a majority of the characters. They just vanish from the movie, never to be seen again, their fates left in complete limbo. Essentially, there is no closure for them. Those important moments were completely cut from the movie.
I’m bringing this up now because the characters and plot of Slender Man outright don’t matter. The movie follows every single generic horror trope that a bunch of dumb teenagers getting together, doing some dark magic, summoning a monster — in this case Slender Man — can have, and then the rest of the movie is them dealing with him as he slowly kills off each character or drives them crazy. Even then, their fate is pretty ambiguous, so maybe they died? Possibly? Who knows.
But even with a boilerplate premise, Slender Man somehow manages to do even less than what is given to it. It spends long periods of time just watching the characters sit around and talk about Slender Man without any “scares” happening. When they do happen, they’re so drawn out that I decided to time how long it took from set-up to payoff for a single scare. The record while I was timing was 36 seconds. It took 36 seconds for something unsettling to happen, a character to slowly walk over to where the jumpscare was, only to be faked out by a random person. It says a lot when the most scared I was in the theatre was when I was watching the trailer for The Nun before the movie even screened.
Even as I was watching it, I had no idea what was even happening. I tried incredibly hard to figure out just what was going on for most of the movie, but the movie becomes incomprehensible at a certain point. By the end of the movie bizarre imagery just flash up on screen, characters are seen running through the woods, Slender Man chases them, and that’s about it. There’s a subplot about Main Character A wanting to date some guy, but it gets dropped a little over halfway into the movie with no fanfare. We don’t even know if the guy lives or dies in the end. He doesn’t show up at the end, and he apparently throws himself off of a roof in the trailer and not in the actual movie, but your guess is as good as mine (and you haven’t even seen the movie).
But I could excuse a plot where the viewer is left in the dark if it’s done well. Case in point, Oculus. I adore that movie, yet I couldn’t tell you what was real and what was a fantasy as the movie progressed. Being kept in the dark made it much more engaging and thrilling because the movie subverted your expectations, making sure you had no idea what was going to happen to better scare you. But Slender Man isn’t scary in the slightest. In the entire movie, there were only a few points where there was a chance to be scary, and it screwed the pooch royally. Seeing Slender Man stand in the distance watching people is not scary, no matter how many tentacles you give him.
On that note, can we all just admit that Slender Man isn’t a scary monster? He has a nifty design, but he has no personality, his actions are vague at best, and seeing him ruins any presence that he has. Slender Man is scary because of the urban legends surrounding him. The best horror surrounding him is Lovecraftian to a degree. The horror isn’t from him doing evil, but characters reacting and panicking because of what they think he’ll do to them. He’s scary because of what he could be, but Slender Man tries to show us what he is and what he can do. And the result? Imitate the tree rape scene from Evil Dead. Badly.
Speaking of things being poorly done, the special effects are some of the worst I’ve seen all year. I don’t normally notice these things, but between poor day-for-night shots and lame CGI, Slender Man is a mess to watch, if you can even watch it. Most of the scenes are in poorly lit forests or buildings that were so dark I couldn’t see which character I was following. The coup de grace of garbage came when one character was in a library and the editor realized that there was a warp effect in iMovie and he wanted to show off how trippy it looked.
Except it wasn’t trippy. It was just sh*t.
But I tried my damndest to find anything of value here. I looked long and hard for something, anything, that could be redeemable about Slender Man. I tried to look at it as a terribad movie, but it was too lifeless to elicit any laughs out of me. I tried to think about what kind of lessons it would serve future filmmakers, but I couldn’t think of any solutions to improve it. The best that I could do was look at my friend and make spooky fingers at her whenever something happened and see if I could get a giggle out of that. Sadly, no luck.
There’s no gore, so we can’t even watch these characters die. And by all accounts, they should die. They’re written like how every adult thinks teenage girls sound and make all of the standard horror dumb decisions. If a character tells someone not to look at Slender Man, you better believe they’re going to look at him, scream, and get themselves killed. There are no surprises here, except at how bland it all is.
When I go into a movie, I want to feel something from it. I want to see how the movie affects me, whether it be through the plot, the characters, the cinematography, or the music. I care about being taken on a journey and stepping into the world that the movie makes. I could care less about intent, direction, or symbolism unless it directly relates to the overall narrative. Slender Man has none of that. It has no plot, just an excuse to watch Slender Man haunt some teens. It has no characters, just two-dimensional teenagers designed by adults who think they know what scares “the youths.” The cinematography is subpar, and the music is dull.
My theatre was full of a bunch of teenagers that were ready to enjoy themselves. I counted no less than seven people walk out of the movie, never to return. And I was tempted to join them. I was wasting my time watching Slender Man. I was getting nothing out of it. When the movie mercifully decided to end, I couldn’t believe that was it. The ending was a non-ending, fading to black with a lame warning of how Slender Man was like a computer virus, infecting the minds of people everywhere. I have no idea where that came from, but I didn’t care. All I thought of was how I wasted my time.
A movie should be an experience. It should make me feel some emotion in some capacity. Those emotions are up to the viewer, but Slender Man made me bored. I yawned my way through it. I shrugged my shoulders at what I saw. It’s disposable. It’s meandering. It’s lame. It’s a snoozefest. It’s a movie I would never recommend to anyone, even out of curiosity. It’s now my new benchmark for a bad movie that does everything, unquestionably, wrong.