Creepypasta, the corner of the internet dedicated to ghost stories, urban legends, and horror stories, birthed a modern urban legend in 2009. On the Something Awful forums user “Victor Surge”, real name Eric Knudsen, posted a photo with a tall, reedy faceless being lurking in the background of the shot. A Photoshop challenge began, and Slender Man was born. A patchy mythos developed as meme turned to urban legend, and Slender Man ended up being a cross between the Pied Piper and Satan, here to lure children and/or steal them. The whole thing turned tragic in 2014 when two twelve-year-olds attempted to murder a classmate in order to appease Slender Man. In light of that, Sony probably should not have committed to a Slender Man movie, or, at the least, they should have devoted themselves to making a much better one than Slender Man, easily one of the dumbest and worst horror movies in recent memory.
The definitive Slender Man movie is the HBO documentary Beware the Slenderman by Irene Taylor Brodsky, which delves into the attempted murder case. Brodsky examines both how memes spread and how stories manifest in reality, a trait particular to the horror genre, and how that manifestation can be used as either motivation or manipulation, depending on your opinion of the girls involved in the case. The narrative film Slender Man—there is no consensus on the capitalization—is not interested in any of those things. It is only interested in being a cheap money grab attempting to cash in on a meme years after its sell-by date.
It starts out with a group of high school girls led by Wren (Joey King, once again toiling in subpar horror) who try to summon Slender Man after hearing the cute boys in class are doing it. Summoning Slender Man involves watching a video because this movie is a knock-off of The Ring. In fact, it’s a knock-off of a lot of things. There’s a little Blair Witch and jump scares right out of the cheapest Blumhouse movies, and even a dash of It Follows, with the faceless being stalking the girls. That last reference might be down to director Sylvain White attempting to put a little flare on it, but the odd bit of style is not enough to save Slender Man, and touching on a great horror movie like It Follows invites cruel comparisons Slender Man cannot win. It Follows is damn near perfect, and you should definitely see it, but Slender Man is terrible and should be seen by no one ever.
The girls dum-dum their way through the plot, doing the kind of flagrant horror movie clichés that make you actively root for their demise. And the whole thing is weirdly vague, as the rules of Slender Man are not super clear, which could be because it’s a f*cking internet meme and is not the heights of sophisticated storytelling, or it could be down to avoiding too much likeness to the motivations in the real-life murder case. The movie is too dumb to be confusing, but the lack of specificity in story hurts it, even with a convenient library exposition dump that explains everything.
Slender Man has many opportunities to be truly creepy, building off the widespread fascination with a faceless character, or the way urban legends take hold and spread. It could be a modern riff on The Town That Dreaded Sundown, not that that is so great a movie, but at least Sundown has some personality. Slender Man is so generic it lacks any distinction, much as the constant photoshopping inevitably ran the meme into the ground. Slender Man commits the double sin of being not only bad, but boring.
Attached - Joey King at the Teen Choice Awards on the weekend.