By Ryan Keating-Lambert

★★☆☆☆

Slender Man is an exploitative horror that’s packed with tropes and silly jump-scares, and it’s even a bit disrespectful.

Based on the Creepypasta Wiki stories and the hordes of internet memes and YouTube videos, Slender Man sees four teenage girls forced to take on the faceless villain in their quiet American town after they watch an online video to ‘summon’ him.

Directed by Sylvain White (The Americans), this film more or less tries to borrow from cult classic The Ring and do for the internet what The Ring did for VHS, but it fails miserably. The scares are cheap and repetitive as is the sound design. You’re going to get real tired of those church bells.

Disppointing, because Slender starts off as a relatively OK horror popcorn flick. The cast is reasonable, but the film just fails to set up any kind of a decent back story for the villain other than ‘he takes children away or makes them go insane’.

As things progress and the girls are haunted one by one, it does attempt to delve into the folklore and history of the character, but like the Internet, it fails to build anything concrete. It’s all very vague and featureless, much like the face of the black-suited bad guy himself.

It also pays tribute to the internet stories and videos as much as it can and maybe that’s why it gets so lost. There’s simply too much of the legend on the web to be able to build anything substantial, but hey, it’s still going to be enough for some people, and Hollywood is well aware of that.

Teens are probably going to love it. It’s the boogeyman of their generation after all. On top of that, Slender explores all the typical themes of teen dread that you’d expect, including sex, pregnancy, peer pressure and the dangers of the internet. The way it presents these themes however, is messy and frustrating. There’s a horrific scene in front of a mirror involving black tentacle-like branches that’s so out-of-the-blue and totally unnecessary. Pick a theme or message and stick with it.

It’s a shame that this film is going to be so poorly received because the cast of young women here can definitely act and are no strangers to the horror genre. You might recognise Wren (Joey King) and that’s because she’s one of the girls in James Wan’s supreme frightfest The Conjuring, an infinitely better horror movie. Then there’s Katie (Annalise Basso) who you might recognise from the recent Ouija: Origin of Evil and 2013’s Occulus, one of the most underrated horror films of recent years and well worth a watch if you haven’t seen it.

Unfortunately though, the characters these girls play are just so dull and lifeless. There’s absolutely no attempt at justifying their rash behaviour and bizarre motivations either. Lead girl Hallie (Julia Goldani Telles) even ditches best friend Wren, right when she’s in the clutches of evil, so she can go on a date. Huh?

Slender Man is not a good movie and also seems to be slightly inappropriate considering that a couple of real life American girls took the legend one step too far and stabbed a girl years ago. Despite the half-assed in-movie references to the internet being a ‘virus’, the whole thing feels like a real slap in the face to the survivor and her parents.

Photo: Falkon CZ

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