Tragedy has always been dramatized for entertainment purposes. The horrifying Slender Man created and shared online in the early 2000s is just one of many fictional characters brought to the screen because it has a fanbase and familiarity. However, after two teenagers claimed to serve Slender Man and assaulted their friend, many felt this film was in bad taste. As a viewer watching it, I felt it was best to see if the movie could stand for itself, despite controversy. It can’t.
The story starts out like so many others. Instead of the Candyman or Bloody Mary, a group of teenage girls attempt to make contact with Slender Man after learning that a group of boys, including two crushes, plan to do the same. Trust me, teens, it’s not worth it. Before long, all four of the girls begin to experience nightmares, visions, and inexplicable occurrences we’ve seen done before in other movies. That alone shouldn’t be a problem. Horror movies adhering to the clichés can actually turn out somewhat decent if they are well-executed. With a simple, predictable story, the only hope for a film like this is to deliver the scares. Sadly, few of them actually work.
For starters, much of the film is filled with a dull grey tone, possibly meant to highlight the bleak surroundings and the fears of the main characters, or perhaps to save money. Sadly, this is visually not well-utilized, and parts of the film are difficult to even see. That in itself is a shame, since the Slender Man played by monster master Javier Botet (“Mama,” “Crimson Peak”) is actually an imposing figure whether you believe in his actual existence or not. Director Sylvain White would have done well to look at films such as “The Woman in Black,” which managed to use fog and a grey tone to great effect. Here, it’s distracting.
Almost as distracting is the fact that the film’s plot stumbles along with no possibility of development. Lead girl Hallie (Julia Goldani Telles) and co. try their best, but by the time the film reaches its climax, little has been accomplished. One character rambles on about the connection between their current predicament and others across the country, but it’s never expanded upon, no doubt being left open for the possibility of an unnecessary sequel.
Are there any redeeming qualities? A few sequences manage against all odds to be disturbing, and the run-down houses of many characters provide a naturally creepy setting — one where anyone could feel vulnerable. But that’s about it. Whether you found this film in bad taste or not, it’ll almost certainly leave one if you view it.
For more movie reviews, follow Davis on Letterboxd @dwoodwardy.