SLENDER MAN

Reviewed by GREG KING

Director: Sylvain White

Stars: Joey King, Julia Goldani Telles, Jaz Sinclair, Annalise Basso, Javier Botel.

The term “creepypasta” is one I’d never heard of before, but apparently it was created to describe internet spread urban legends. One of the more notorious was that of the so-called Slender Man, a boogieman that was created by Eric Knudsen under the pseudonym of Victor Surge in 2009. The character went viral on social media, You Tube and the internet and became part of the consciousness of adolescents.

The slender man of the title is a tall, lanky, long-limbed, blank-faced, ghoulish and unnerving looking demon with a predilection for abducting impressionable children. He became something of a social media phenomenon amongst the more impressionable adolescents, and there was supposedly a curse associated with viewing the figure or calling up his name. The character was also held responsible for an incident in Wisconsin in 2014 when some adolescent girls attempted to murder another, claiming that the slender man was responsible. There was even a HBO documentary in 2016 Beware The Slenderman that delved into this phenomenon and its horrifying consequences.

Urban legends and spooky characters have driven horror films for years, way back to Dracula and Frankenstein, but more recently we have had the unstoppable nightmarish figures of Jason, Freddy Krueger, Candyman and even the boogieman from Jeepers Creepers, etc. What should have been a creepy horror film inspired by the mythological meme of the Slender Man turns out to be one of the dullest horror films to hit our screens in recent years. Not only that but it is also one of the gloomiest looking too, with murky cinematography from Luca Del Puppo. Many scenes are dimly lit and there are lots of nocturnal scenes that use natural lighting. The film wasn’t screened in advance for reviewers, which is always a bad sign. And the low expectations are certainly met here.

The film is set in Windsor, a small town in Massachusetts, and centres around four high school friends who become fascinated by the internet myth of the boogieman known as the slender man. There is Wren (Joey King, from White House Down, etc), Hallie (Julia Goldani Telles, from tv series The Affair, etc), Chloe (Jaz Sinclair, from Paper Towns, etc) and Katie (Annalise Basso, from Ouija: Origins Of Evil, etc). One night during a sleepover they decide to summon forth the Slender Man after watching a scary video on the internet. When Katie mysteriously goes missing the other three set out to discover what happen and learn of the truth behind the myth. More terrifying events happen, and the girls realise just how much of a threat they have unleashed by tampering with the supernatural.

Slender Man is clearly aimed at the teenage market and it taps into the way in which technology plays a large part in the lives of teenagers today. But here screenwriter David Birke has delivered a jumbled and convoluted and messy narrative that ultimately makes little sense. The internal logic of the character is confusing. In developing the idea of a curse that is hard to get rid of, Slender Man deliberately borrows elements from other (in many cases superior) horror films, from the original Japanese Ringu series through to the recent Truth Or Dare.

There is some creepy and mildly disturbing imagery here, and some cheap shocks, but the climax overdoses on CGI effects. Cinematographer Puppo (who has done lots of short film work) uses shadows and light to try and build a certain atmosphere, but the dimly lit settings make it hard to work out what is happening sometimes. Javier Botel (Insidious: The Last Key, etc) plays the titular character here, and because of his unusual looks and body shape he is often cast as the sinister, masked figures in horror movies.

Director Sylvain White (the dance film Stomp The Yard, etc, but better known for his television work) fails to inject suspense or much in the way of genuine shocks into the material, and his lacklustre handling of the film means that very little that happens delivers. This is a derivative horror film, and White’s pedestrian pacing doesn’t help. And we don’t really care about the characters who are largely underdeveloped and one-dimensional.

The film bears many signs of post-production tampering as there are many scenes that appeared in the trailer are missing from the final film. This post-production editing was purportedly done to tone down some of the more disturbing elements and the harshness of the central idea to make it more palatable for its demographic.

Slender by name, slender by nature.

★☆

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