Internet folklore is essentially “nightmare fuel” for the digital age. It provides pre-adolescent children with a dark and hyper-violent Wikipedia page filled to the brim with so of my the most bone-chilling stories you’ll likely come across. Sometimes these tales can be pure stupidity, other times they can be enthralling and formidable.
Synopsis: In a small town in Massachusetts, a group of friends, fascinated by the internet lore of the Slender Man, attempt to prove that he doesn’t actually exist… until one of them mysteriously goes missing. (Sony Pictures)
Starring: Joey King, Julia Goldani Telles, and Jaz Sinclair
Writer: David Birke
Director: Sylvain White
Rating: 14A (Canada)/PG-13 (United States)
Running Time: 93mins
One of the more wildly known “creepypastas” (the title these self-published stories received) is about a supernatural figure that stalks, abducts, and/or brutally traumatizes children. This figure has received the name “Slender Man” due to his slim figure. It truly shows that Hollywood might be on the brink of running out of ideas when they adapt a tale like this for cinema screens, or maybe they are breathing fresh life into old ideas? During the film, we follow four teenage girls, as they ignorantly play with the power of evil forces and summon the Slender Man into their lives.
What makes Slender Man special isn’t due to any sort of nuance. Sylvain White makes it no secret that his far-too-late-for-appreciation genre flick is a blatant homage to beloved b-movie’s of the 70’s/80’s. There is an undying passion and a subtle beauty that lingers in every bland (or maybe slightly misguided) frame/scene. That visual mediocrity is persistent and does a great job at reflecting the mundane lives of our leading characters but it leads to a lack of surface-level interest.
The opening scene creates a strong level of tension for the events that are to come but, unfortunately, it all swan dives head first from there, until a moment of beauty comes into play. We, as the audience, are subject to watch a shock-video collage with an increasingly eerie soundtrack playing behind it. From this point onward, we are greeted with surrealist visuals and brutal portrayals of insanity far beyond what the mind can comprehend. It’s a genre lover’s wet dream, to be blunt. The gripping mental nausea that these scenes create makes up for a rather dull introduction entirely.
David Birke’s pen may be the film’s strongest weapon. There’s an overwhelming darkness to the narrative that he’s crafting but it also remains extremely cognizant. His self-awareness resides in how fluently he’s able to balance a genuine sense of tension with a goofy taste that lays in your subconscious throughout watching the film. He knows that the audience isn’t expecting something grounded and realistic while walking into a film based on internet folklore and he takes advantage of that prediction. Birke winds up captivating us in that sense, as he is delivering heavily inspired fast-cuts and genre troops into every vein of the story. It plays out exactly how you would expect but there is this undying sense of curiosity that keeps your eyes glued towards the screen for the film’s runtime.
It is undoubtedly years too late for a mainstream, Hollywood released film. If this film were to be released in theatres during the peak of B-movies, it would surely be a cult favorite at this point. Nonetheless, it will please fans of that underground genre instead of introducing new ones, which is slightly disappointing. White shot every prediction out of the ballpark and winded up creating something totally bizarre that is difficult to not automatically appreciate. There are a few faults that lay within execution and exposition but they can be easily ignored as you sit back and observe what is happening on the screen in front of you. There are just too many ambitious elements in this film to be ignored. Definitely one to check out on a Tuesday, just for the theatre experience.