Before I start this review, I feel that I should go ahead and admit this right off the bat: I know very little about just what exactly “creepypastas” are, or how the mythos of Slender Man inspired the real-life tragedy involving a pair of young girls in Wisconsin who brutally stabbed their friend to satisfy the fictional character. All I can really speak to here is the film itself, directed by Sylvain White, which is what I will be focusing on. So, keeping that in mind, I will say that I ended up liking Slender Man a lot more than I thought I would, due to some solid casting and haunting visuals that do a great job bringing this Internet urban legend to life.
Slender Man follows four high schoolers in Windsor, Massachusetts—Hallie (Julia Goldani Telles), Wren (Joey King from last year’s Wish Upon), Chloe (Jaz Sinclair, When the Bough Breaks) and Katie (Annalise Basso, Ouija: Origin of Evil)—who decide one night at a sleepover to summon the “Slender Man” while watching a creepy video on the Internet. As you may have expected, this causes some seriously weird and horrific stuff to start happening to the longtime friends. First, Katie goes missing during a field trip near the woods, which causes panic among the remaining girls and everyone else in town, and as more horrifying happenings occur, they begin to realize just how real the Slender Man and his deadly supernatural grasp really are.
As someone who finds the value of PG-13 horror to be just as great as R-rated horror (look, we all have to start somewhere, and if we can get better films for younger audiences, that’s something I can always get behind), I do think that the Slender Man is another strong entry for teen audiences, effectively tapping into how technology continues to transform our everyday lives, and in this instance, how it can be utilized to conjure up an evil spirit that captures the children who summon it. Personally, I don’t believe in such mumbo jumbo (I’m an old skeptic), but I do know there are hordes of kids out there who are far more receptive to such concepts, and that’s precisely who the Slender Man aims to terrify here. And, for the most part, I think it works pretty darn well in that regard.
Slender Man effectively pulls you in through the characters of Hallie and Wren, as we spend most of the movie’s runtime with them, experiencing their trauma and confusion after they partake in what feels like “Bloody Mary” for the digital age. There are several nightmare sequences that really heighten the mental anguish these girls are feeling, and on a visual level, both White and cinematographer Luca Del Puppo have crafted something here that is gorgeous and haunting. The use of shadows throughout does a nice job of making you an active participant in the film, always scanning every corner of every darkened frame, just wondering where the Slender Man is going to pop out next. Oh, and kudos to Javier Botet for his portrayal of the eponymous otherworldly character.
That being said, I do feel like the first half of Slender Man is a lot stronger than the back half, with the narrative and the story’s focus getting a bit muddled during the film’s finale. I also wish the characters of Katie and Chloe were a bit stronger as well, as we don’t get nearly enough reasons to invest in them in the first place (the subplot of Katie’s alcoholic dad also feels a bit surface-y at best). Some story threads in Slender Man seem to drop off without ever being wrapped up, which left me wondering what a more fully realized version of this movie would have looked like.
But, as a whole, Slender Man ended up being something of a surprise for me, just because I had admittedly written this project off as another attempt to cash in on a popular online phenomenon, and nothing more. In terms of creating a creepy and unsettling movie for those who have been enthralled by the Slender Man character over the last few years, White delivers in that department. It’s not really an experience for the more cynical horror fans out there, but teens looking for some big screen scares this weekend should have some fun with what Slender Man has to offer.
Movie Score: 3/5