December 11-12, 2021
2018’s latest horror film, Slender Man is coming to Australia in just a few short days, and you may be wondering whether or not a trip to the cinema is worth it, to revisit last decade’s flavour of the month internet-icon, now on the big screen.
It’s true that this movie is about ten years too late to its own party, but that doesn’t mean it has nothing to offer in 2018. In fact, Slender Man may just surprise you with the spooks it has on show.
In Slender Man is a valiant attempt at making an iconic horror film for the internet age. The story takes advantage of the internet, and how connected it’s made us, and flips that to show us the horrific side. The modern monsters aren’t ones that hide from the world, they’re the ones that make themselves known, just a little, enough to make you second guess whether or not you even saw them. They’re ones that everyone talks about on forums and message boards, where rumours and speculation fly, that fans the fire of our dread, and that is certainly what Slender Man represents.
This film knows where it has come from, it understands its roots in internet culture, and isn’t afraid to show that. The movie’s core theme ultimately relates back to how myths like the Slender Man spread like a virus. Slender Man is a story that was catalysed on the internet, and the mythos was built up over years by the fans, with people’s contributions of spooky images, stories, and of course the games that everyone played, spreading the idea of Slender Man, making it ‘viral’.
The double meaning of this term is something the film plays with heavily; Slender Man experienced ‘viral’ success online, just as he torments the characters in the film by burrowing into their thoughts – like a ‘virus’. A horror film that explores this hasn’t really been done this well yet, and it’s an admirable first step in the right direction. The film even uses the original videos and images that were created by people online in the movie! To give the fans such a level of acknowledgement and involvement is unprecedented, and very welcome.
This theme is also reflected in the scares themselves. The best scares in the film make great use of modern technology, and as great horror does, it turns the mundane and ordinary minutia, like our phones, against us, making us afraid of the most normal things in the world. The forest setting is also ideal for a monster like Slender Man.
With the shallow depth of field blurring every tree branch, there’s always the looming threat that any tree shape could be him, leering in the back, waiting to grab the characters. His lanky figure and long appendages are perfectly suited for the forest, something his original creator obviously knew well.
There are some unique ideas used here, particularly in the sound design and psychedelic visuals, and there’s more than just jump-scares to give you chills. It’s clear that the scares take a lot of inspiration from Creepypasta and the horror side of YouTube. There seems to be a genuine attempt to pay tribute to the style of horror that you’d only find online, the kind that ultimately gave birth to Slender Man.
For all its praises we sing though, the film is not without flaws. The way the final message is delivered, through painful narration at the end, doesn’t show a lot of respect for the audience’s intelligence. The characters and story are forgettable to say the least. The film also recycles its best scares several times, and it can be very frustrating when you’re watching a spook you’ve already seen, and you know the filmmakers can do better. The visual effects are also on a sliding scale of quality, ranging from incredibly impressive for a small film, to extremely goofy.
Finally, the Slender Man himself is not going to go near the top of anyone’s ‘favourite monster’ list. His simple design made him easy for ordinary people online to take advantage of and use in their works, but when you put a decent amount of money into fleshing him out realistically, it falls flat.
To put it bluntly, he just has a nothing design. He’s no Pennywise. The closer you get to actually seeing Slender Man close up, the less scary he becomes, and the film knows this… sometimes. They do tend to use his image sparingly. He’s best seen from a distance, as an ominous shadow, or a frightening silhouette. The best scares in the film actually don’t even have him, so make of that what you will.
This is definitely a film that’s made for the generation that created and enjoyed Slender Man at his peak, and whether you find that aspect patronising and off-putting or not is ultimately up to you, but we enjoyed it, and at the very least, it’s an interesting examination into what happens when companies try to translate internet horror onto the big screen.
Slender Man releases across Australia on August 23.