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Movie Review: “SLENDER MAN’s” big-screen debut is severely anemic

Monday, August 13, 2018 | Review

By CAROLYN MAURICETTE

Starring Julia Goldani Telles, Joey King and Jaz Sinclair
Directed by Sylvain White
Written by David Birke
Screen Gems

Creepypasta have taken hold of the mainstream, and these digital folklore legends have been successfully adapted for television and the big screen. Syfy’s CHANNEL ZERO has adapted popular “copy and paste” on-line story threads to create three bizarre and chilling seasons, with a fourth season in the works. Possibly the most infamous creepypasta is the Slender Man, a willowy spectre first created in photographs by Eric Knudsen, a.k.a. Victor Surge, and know for largely following and terrorizing children. He was the motivation behind two 12-year-old Wisconsin girls stabbing a friend 19 times in 2014, with the details of this attempted murder recounted in the disturbing documentary BEWARE THE SLENDERMAN by Irene Taylor Brodsky. With all his sinister invocations, there are of course feature horror films about him, such as the eerie found-footage flick ALWAYS WATCHING: A MARBLE HORNETS STORY, based on the YouTube series of the same name. Now, he’s the subject of Sylvain White’s SLENDER MAN.

Amidst high-school crushes, underaged drinking and teenage boredom, four girls, Hallie (Julia Goldani Telles), Wren (Joey King), Chloe (Jaz Sinclair) and Katie (Annalise Basso) decide to summon the Slender Man during a sleepover. After they find an Internet thread on the supernatural fiend and a disturbingly entrancing video, they are spooked, but warily shrug off the scary images they have just watched. A week later, the girls confess their nightmares and visions to each other on a class trip. Katie sees a frightening vision in a nearby forest and disappears, leaving the town and her friends searching for her. The remaining trio learn they are in danger of being spirited away by the Slender Man, and desperately try to find Katie and change their fates.

King, Telles, Sinclair and Basso are all capable actors—the former is familiar from THE CONJURING and WISH UPON and the latter co-starred in Mike Flanagan’s OCULUS and OUIJA: ORIGIN OF EVIL—but they can’t save this slapdash script and formulaic, plodding story. It’s surprising to find that SLENDER MAN’s screenwriter was David Birke, who also penned Paul Verhoeven’s critically acclaimed, award-winning ELLE, starring Isabelle Huppert. Other deficits are the overly dark cinematography, the scenes ripped off from RINGU and THE CRAFT and the underuse of its well-known title character. In fact, a faceless mannequin in a shop window is more frightening than this manifestation of Slender Man. Javier Botet, who dons the Slender Man suit and mask, is one of the hottest creature actors out there, with roles in INSIDIOUS: THE LAST KEY, IT, and the [REC] movies among many others making more effective use of his lanky body (shaped by Marfan syndrome). The rapid flashes of him did no justice to the lore of this phantom, let alone Botet’s physical talents as an actor.

White’s direction results in a series of disjointed vignettes with no real narrative guidance, strewn with cheesy CGI and long stretches of fumbling around in the dark throughout. Any talent he’s shown on various TV series and 2010’s THE LOSERS doesn’t shine through in SLENDER MAN, which feels more akin to his straight-to-video I’LL ALWAYS KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER.

There are a multitude of directions this film could have taken. Perhaps SLENDER MAN could have focused on the actual creepypasta thread and those who wrote the stories, or even been a thriller about the two messed-up kids who tried to kill their friend, but no such luck. While I’m sure there’s a fan or two to sustain this film somewhere out there (find me one, please!), seasoned horror devotees and creepypasts buffs won’t be suckered by this lackluster attempt.