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Slender Man (Movie Review)

Slender Man (Movie Review)
3 10

PLOT: In a wooded Massachusetts town, a gaggle of imbecilic teenagers set out to disprove the existence of Slender Man, an internet boogeyman who abducts children.

REVIEW: Avid horror fans hoping to entrust their deepest fears in the bloody hands of a new-generational horror boogeyman will be sorely, painfully, downright angrily dissatisfied with SLENDER MAN, Sylvain White’s witlessly insipid and tediously nonthreatening new PG-13 endeavor. Not that much was expected from the man who’s most superlative credit is I STILL KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER, but SLENDER MAN is so pathetically ineffective, so distastefully half-baked that, ironically, when people ask me in 2019 what I did last summer, there’s no way in hell I will remember that I witnessed this ugly trough of swill in theaters. It’s that forgettable, that inconsequential, and that insultingly unnecessary. Based on a viral internet myth forged by Victor Surge (Eric Knudson) in 2009 about a gaunt, faceless menace that stalks and steals children in the night, White and screenwriter David Birke have learned the hard way that there isn’t enough mythic lore to the titular “terror” to make for a compelling, or even remotely horrifying, feature length narrative. A poor outing all the way around, if you’re truly interested in the subject, you’re better off seeing the HBO doc BEWARE THE SLENDERMAN instead!

To start, the picture introduces us to a quartet of vapid, soon to be woefully under-developed teenage girls. We have Wren (Joey King), Piper (Annalise Basso), Chloe (Jaz Sinclair) and Hallie (Julia Goldani Telles), all of which grouse about the requisite teenage angst of living in a small town. These girls gossip, flirt with boys, sneak shots of vodka, and ready themselves for a night on the town. Specifically, the equally two-dimensional boys they flirt with are involved in summoning Slender Man (Javier Botet), a viral internet sensation that people believe is manifesting in the real world. The girls have never heard of Slender Man, so before joining the boys in a ritual to summon the mysterious monster, they decide to peruse the internet on a boring Friday night to learn all they can. Soon all four get entangled in the paranoid web of Slender Man, a tall, gaunt, faceless figure with spindly spiderlike appendages that preys on innocent youth. Unfortunately, the early introductory explanation of the boogeyman – presented in a RINGU-like video instruction - is laughably vague, thereby nowhere near convincing, unique or even scary, and comes with rules so confounding you’d be happy to watch CANDYMAN 3 instead.

When three bells are rung, you know Slender Man is near. This inevitably happens after the boys softly retreat and leave the girls to summon the ghoul. Suddenly the girls are beset with haunting visions of Slender Man, and soon Piper is thought to be abducted. This gives way to a series of perfunctory horror platitudes and impotent jump-scares, horrible decision making and worse, a barrage of entranced, wayward wanderings in the woods where the snap of a branch is supposed to make us leap out of the seat. Strangely, it is the sound design that works most in SLENDER MAN’s favor, not just in its score by Brandon Campbell and Ramin Djawadi, but also the aforementioned bells as well. Coupled with some of the well composed background shots of Slender Man out of focus, in the shadows, and amongst the trees by DP Luca Del Puppo, this is where the movie is at its most tolerable, if not forgivable.

The biggest problem with SLENDER MAN, aside from its lack of scares and lassitudinous tempo, is that the title character is simply an unworthily conjured, weakly developed character that does not merit its own movie. Not only does it crib its mythic lore from various boogeymen we’ve come to know and even love over the decades, but it does nothing to set itself apart or to give it a uniquely sinister signature along the way. Slender Man’s poorly defined reason for existing, reason for randomly materializing, or even how his evil powers operate in the first place leaves a lot to be desired just from a logical standpoint. Of course, we’d all happily forgo logic if the end-result were terrifying, but the only thing unsettling about SLENDER MAN is how Sony decided to release the picture less than a year after the real-life incident in which a girl was stabbed to death by a killer claiming to be guided by the viral Slender Man. Tasteless as the decision may be, just as making a feature out of an internet meme seems to be, I take greater offense to a horror movie that is utterly bereft of terror. A movie put out for profit, no less.

Another missed opportunity, given said real-life incident, is the failure to scathingly impugn social media message boards and the rampant promulgation of dangerous junk on the internet. Since Slender Man was born on the internet, shouldn’t it have been the internet itself that played the biggest villainous role in the film? Shouldn’t some social commentary on the matter be voiced? Apparently not, as it would likely interrupt the exhaustive time spent with the four girls aimlessly sauntering through the foggy woods in a fugue state. Not once do the girls make a legitimate attempt to get to the bottom of the internet source, not once do White and Birke care to tackle the topical subject of social media as culpable for setting detrimental trends, particularly among today’s youth. No, aside from being dim and dull, as its name suggests, SLENDER MAN is thin, empty, and patently nondescript.

Extra Tidbit: SLENDER MAN opens wide today, August 10th.
Source: AITH

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