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Friday, August 10, 2018

Slender Man

Slender Man is a joyless and dreary thriller that is dripping with atmosphere, but has nowhere to go and nothing ever happens.  The main characters are high school girls who seem to have had all the vitality drained from them, and that's before they start getting stalked by the faceless ghoul.  The movie is dark and underlit to the point that the most supernatural occurrence that happens is when someone actually turns on a light.  There are dark woods, ominous and slow church bells that ring over the town, and the main adult figure in these girls' lives is an alcoholic and abusive father.  It's moody, gloomy, and doesn't make a lick of sense.

The titular Slender Man is obviously the famous Internet creation of Eric Knudsen (who goes by the name of Victor Surge), who built a creepy urban legend around a demon dressed in a suit and has no face who abducts children.  The character took off since its inception back in 2009, inspiring viral videos, stories that explored its background and origins, and video games.  There is some controversy surrounding the film's release, due to an attempted murder that happened four years ago by two 12-year-old girls who were obsessed with the Slender Man character.  There was a documentary made about this case called Beware the Slender Man, and it's scarier than anything this Hollywood effort has to offer, as that film explored the disturbed psyche of the two young girls, while this is just your generic boogeyman jump scare movie.  It's a slow and plodding affair that seems to have been filmed in slow motion, and where everyone just seems to sit around looking depressed while they wait to die.  What fun.

The plot provided by screenwriter David Birke more or less lifts wholesale from 2002's remake of The Ring, only instead of a cursed videotape wiping people out, it's a cursed viral video that tells you how to summon the demonic Slender Man.  Four high school girls who are best friends decide to watch the video while they are bored one night together, accidentally summon it, and start disappearing and seeing the apparition wherever they go.  Poor Katie (Annalise Basso) is the first of the four friends to become a victim when she mysteriously disappears during a field trip.  This leaves our main heroine Hallie (Julia Goldani Telles), and her two remaining friends Wren (Joey King) and Chloe (Jaz Sinclair), to solve the mystery.  And by "solve the mystery", I mean making every possible wrong move, such as wandering around alone in the dark and creepy forest that seems to make up 80% of the town they live in, and blindly following strange voices that call out to them in the night.  Speaking of the town these girls live in, it seems oddly deserted.  The streets are dark, almost every home is empty, and the local library and hospital can't seem to afford their electrical bills.

For all of its dark and brooding atmosphere, nothing actually happens during Slender Man.  The creature itself lurks in the shadows and pops up to reach out for the girls now and then, but as far as movie monsters go, he lacks the personality and screen presence of Freddy Krueger or the Chucky doll.  Anyone not familiar with the character from the countless Youtube videos and creepypastas that have been made about him will probably wonder what the big deal is while they're watching this.  Director Sylvain White (Stomp the Yard) can't think of anything scary to do with his demon, so he relies on a lot of cheap jolts and loud bangs on the soundtrack.  Even the mythos behind the creature is woefully unexplained, or somethings makes no sense.  The movie hints that the influence of the Slender Man is spreading to some of the other kids at school, but this idea is dropped pretty much the instant it is brought up.

And when you stop and think about it, just what is the motive of the Slender Man?  To stalk and abduct teenagers, clearly.  But then what?  What does he do with them?  The film's climactic showdown ends on a note that will leave most viewers scratching their heads and pondering this very question.  And how does the young girl who's been locked away in a hospital know what has happened?  And why does Hallie decide to go on a date with the cute boy at school after two of her friends have gone missing, and one is slowly slipping into madness as she uncovers the truth behind the demon stalking them.  Shouldn't she have other things on her mind then boys?  Oh, and here's some helpful advice.  If you should find yourself blindfolded in the dark and spooky woods to perform an ancient and evil ceremony, and someone tells you not to take the blindfold off or else a monster will drive you insane, please don't take your blindfold off in the middle of the ceremony.  Otherwise, the demon will come into your room and mess up your music playlist.  I hate when that happens.

The only way Slender Man stands out is in the bad decisions it makes throughout.  It promises a spooky good time, but all it gives us is a lot of dreary atmosphere and idiotic characters.  You can also tell that this movie went through extensive reshoots and edits, as the early trailers contain a lot of footage that's no longer in the movie.  Maybe it's for the best.  All I know is that there's a lot of missed opportunity on display here.

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