This review could be sub-titled: When Viral Tries to Go to the Movies. Based in some town, about some myth, involving some group of girls, is this years latest “property-gotten-too-late” internet heavy horror, Slender Man. This year’s antithesis to Hereditary, Slender Man delivers little more than a dredging twenty-minute viral video stretched into ninety minutes. There is little to nothing to grasp and leaves the viewers wondering where was that, who were those girls, and (only and mildest spoiler) what happened to Tom?
Slender Man, directed by Sylvain White, feels a few years too late and watches like a viral video you revisited years later and realized it wasn’t anywhere near as scary as you remembered. One of the internet’s most famous creepypasta, Slender Man fails to deliver any kind of deeper truth or provide any substantial meaning. As we watch four of the most cliché and cookie-cutter horror film characters being picked off one by one, we can’t help but wonder why any of this is happening to them or happening at all. At one point the group of girls play a game of “where to run away to,” but I couldn’t help but wonder what they were running away from? A boy that is actually respectful and nice for once? A typical nuclear family situation? Only two of the girls have any kind of substantial baggage, but we are given so little time and such small attention to them that they’re gone before we notice, leaving us with the two much less interesting characters who have to fight off something they can’t: decent suburban home life.
The past few years have seen a renaissance of horror greats—Get Out, Hereditary, Killing of a Sacred Deer—and although Slender Man tries to enter this elite group of cinema with something different, a contemporary internet spin, with its flashing images and unsettling twitches in the face, it fails to do so on solid feet. It does provide a somewhat fresh infusion of YouTube video qualities but fails to go past that. Hereditary, one of this year’s best films, was layered with symbolism and packed with themes and ideas thoroughly explored; it is nearly the direct opposite of Slender Man. I was left with the feeling of wanting to hit escape and just watch lists of Captain Marvel theories and top ten Daniel Day-Lewis faces.
Slender Man’s girls are hard to distinguish one from another. Hallie, whom I think one would call the protagonist, has a family I hope to forget. There is very little interesting or different, to the point I could cover my eyes and have a hard time picking who was who. Their “hang-out” night when they summon Slender is filled with dialogue from someone who is trying to make out what high school girls talk about but just comes across as broad and cliché. And the characters’ actual issues and motivations never surface. There is little to nothing provided to us to see our characters’ needs to overcome obstacles. So when it comes to the blubbering climax we have this real issue. There is no resolution because the film has just given up at this point.
2018’s Slender Man seems to have come from a dad who was fed up with hearing his kid and his friends scream at a video game and decided to make a movie in the hopes to get them to shut up and let him get some rest. The film tries to stand out and be different with fresh editing and camera work that almost veers into experimental cinema territory, but in a world of horror films that have been great, it all just plays flat.