Have you ever stood in front of your bathroom mirror and repeated the name “Bloody Mary” five times, so as to invoke the dark spirit? Yeah, me neither, but it’s this kind of irrational fear that has served as the groundwork for many horror films — most notable examples being 1992’s Candyman and Gore Verbinski’s The Ring — and now with Sylvain White’s Slender Man, we get an example of what the bottom of the barrel of horror looks like.This film is nothing more than a collection of horror clichés based on an internet meme, resulting in a film that makes the recent Bye Bye Man look like a cinematic masterpiece. Worst of all is the fact that Sony Pictures released Slender Man years after it had been a pop culture phenomenon — I guess a decade late is better than nothing — and it makes me wonder how some studio execs got their job; maybe they repeated “Bloody Mary” four times too many in a bathroom mirror.
One night, four High School best friends, Wren (Joey King), Hallie (Julia Goldani Telles), Chloe (Jaz Sinclair), and Katie (Annalise Basso) decide to summon the legendary “Slender Man” at a sleepover — they’d learned a group of boys were planning the same thing that night, so obviously they had to try it out — and thus this quartet of teenage idiots click on a video link that will apparently call forth this supernatural being, a creature that will either haunt you, drive you insane, or simply take you. Not my idea of a fun evening, but then again I’m not a teenage girl, and sure enough, a week later the four girls are being plagued by nightmares, freaky hallucinations, and nausea.
Now, in the hands of a talented filmmaker, we’d be invested in the survival of these poor girls, but director Sylvain White and screenwriter David Birke are not such filmmakers, as they fail to create characters that anyone could give a damn about (Note: This failure is solely due to these two and not the four young and talented actresses), so when the first girl goes missing, after a school field trip to a local cemetery — ’cause that’s a thing I guess — we immediately start checking our watches to see how long we have before the end credits role.
After their friend Katie goes missing (we later learn she dabbled in the occult, but this has little baring on the plot), the three surviving friends decide to go all “Nancy Drew” with their efforts to find out what happened to her, and this involves discovering a hidden laptop that shows them that the “Slender Man” has being snatching children for quite some time, but this laptop also brings them into contact with a girl on a Slender Man message board, and she informs them on how to get Katie back. How are they to accomplish such a task? Well, they are told to find something important to them, then head into the woods in the middle of the night, blindfold themselves, and wait for the Slender Man to arrive. The true surprise here is that these girls didn’t end up in a cargo container bound for the Middle East.
If the intent of this film was to be some kind of warning parable about the dangers of predators on the internet, it fails miserably, as even the dumbest person on the planet wouldn’t do what these girls do, and if it was to provide chills and scares, it failed at that even harder. Worst of all is that the film hasn’t one ounce of originality to be found in its 93 minute running time; we have the prerequisite jump scares, accompanied by your standard loud musical stings, there are so many “dream within a dream” moments that it eventually undercuts any element of suspense, and finally we have the “scary imagery” that the girls are exposed to, and it all looks like cuts scenes from The Ring.
The design of the Slender Man itself isn’t that bad — Eric Knudsen’s internet meme depicted a thin, unnaturally tall humanoid with a featureless head and face wearing a black suit, with Cthulhu like tentacles sprouting from his back, and it is pretty disturbing — and the moments of him creeping into view could have been unsettling in the hands of a better director, but all Sylvain White manages to do is remind us of better horror films. One character is grabbed by vines and tree branches in a complete lift from Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead films, and when Slender Man finally reaches its “startling conclusion,” we are beyond carrying about any of it. With this film we are subjected to tired and generic tropes, cheap scares, and a plot that is thinner than the monster itself, so do not waste your time with this predictable and boring attempt at a motion picture. Instead, check out the countless web movies about the Slender Man, or better yet, just re-watch The Ring, all would be a better use of your time.
Slender Man (2018)
A cast of talented young actresses, who do their best to create believable chemistry and camaraderie, are completely wasted in a lifeless film about the dangers of internet memes, or at least that’s what I think this film was about.