When Slender Man was release in theaters I was told that it was wrong of me to accuse the film of exploiting the murder of a teenage girl because the story of the movie Slender Man is not the same as the story of the film which casts the Slender Man another in a long line vaguely ill-defined supernatural villains ala the nonsense of The Bye Bye Man or whatever the creature was in the Sinister franchise.
That doesn’t deter me however, from once again calling out the makers of Slender Man for what I feel is an egregious and sleezy bit of exploitation. In 2014 a pair of girls from Waukesha, Wisconsin repeatedly stabbed a 12 year old friend and left her for dead. The girl somehow survived and when the two girls were questioned as to why they had stabbed someone who was prior to this attack, their friend, they claimed that the fictional character, Slender Man had directed them to do it.
The movie Slender Man does not purport to tell that story, that would require some actual care and sensitivity and attention to detail, on top of getting life rights from grieving families. No, the movie doesn’t come from that story but without that near murder in Wisconsin, Slender Man the fictional movie character doesn’t exist. Before the attempted murder in Waukesha brought the name brand recognition of Slender Man to the masses, Hollywood wasn’t interested.
But with a controversy to exploit and a genre audience that forgives a great deal for their supposed scares, Slender Man gets made into an assembly line, machine tooled horror movie complete with a star bad guy with name recognition that could stand him alongside the stars of the horror genre. Slender Man may not be Freddy Krueger but with enough market muscle behind him, and a real life tragedy to exploit, perhaps he could be a hit like The Strangers was a hit, low budget and low ambition.
Low is the operative word for every aspect of Slender Man. Low ambition, low art, low expectations, though not low enough for the film to reach beyond what you expect from such a by the numbers bit of horror nonsense. It worked, they rode their low ambitions and tragedy exploiting title to a significant profit that will no doubt lead to a sequel down the road, as long as they can keep the budget low as the spineless original.
Slender Man tells the story of four friends who get bored and decide to conjure the legend of the Slender Man, a faceless, suited menace with long arms, legs and spindly fingers. It is said that if you look directly at Slender Man he could drive you completely insane and naturally, that ends up happening here. One of our four female leads opens an eye during their conjuring and disappears into the forest not long after.
The three remaining friends set about calling on Slender Man to help them bring back their friend and naturally this leads to another of these tiny brained teens to open her eyes and begin to go mad. Eventually it is determined that Slender Man is bent on killing on anyone who calls him forward and that looking at him, I guess, doesn’t matter. He sets after each of the girls and bumps them off in a family friendly, PG-13 fashion, in cases you weren’t already painfully aware of Slender Man as merely a product.
Even if they hadn’t used a real life tragedy as the jumping off point for the movie, Slender Man would still be terrible. The performances are a bore with even the radiant Jamie King coming off muted and bored by the movie. The characters have no forward momentum of their own, they are simply made to wait impatiently for Slender Man to come and wait for him to finish them off. Does he do that? I think so, his plan appears to have something to do with turning his victims into tree bark and that got rather confusing late in the movie.
I loathe Slender Man both for it’s ugly exploitation of a tragic near murder and for being one of the lamest examples of Hollywood canned product in recent times. The company basically adopted the character of the Slender Man not because it had a built in cache of recognition from it’s YouTube origin to, whether you like it or not, the near murder of a 12 year old girl that brought the character fully into the mainstream of culture for better or worse.