Updated: Feb 7, 2020
2018 has already given us two excellent horror films. First, there was the thrilling A Quiet Place. Then there was the disturbing Hereditary. Despite being extremely different, both of those made me appreciate the skill needed to craft and sustain a high level of tension or dread. Now comes Slender Man, which makes me appreciate those films even more. It is a boring, confusing mess. It is poorly directed and edited and creates no mood whatsoever. It is impossible to become invested in its characters since it barely introduces them before jumping into its dumb plot. This is a very, very bad movie.
The story (based on the viral internet meme, but without anything to actually say about it) focuses on four teenage girls who watch a video online and inadvertently summon the title character, a shape-shifting boogeyman in a suit who is responsible for a slew of missing kids. Soon, one of the girls disappears and the rest of the story consists of the others yelling, walking into dimly lit rooms and making the kinds of terrible decisions you normally see in bad screenplays.
Since the premise is potentially quite creepy, I had hope that the filmmakers would at least have an interesting visual approach. They do not. For one thing, most of the film is so dark that it is difficult to make out what is happening at key moments. Even when I could clearly see the action, the Slender Man mythology as presented here is so vague that the images do not really mean anything. He supposedly gets inside your head and drives you crazy, but Slender Man has no idea how to make that compelling on-screen. There are a lot of shots of ominous trees and that is basically it.
This feels like a film that was heavily tinkered with in editing. Several sequences seem rushed, character motivations make no sense and allegedly suspenseful moments show up with no build. It is possible this final result was always the plan, but I am guessing a lot of work was done on Slender Man in post-production. This could have been to achieve a PG-13 rating. Or it could have been to eliminate down time between Slender Man hauntings. Or maybe it was an attempt to make the plot coherent. Whatever the reason was, their effort failed. This is an incredibly tedious film that feels far longer than its 87 minutes (minus the end credits).
Even when I am reviewing a movie I absolutely hated, I generally find something good to say about it. That is a pretty big challenge here. I suppose the production design is alright. Also, the actors do the best they can with the awful material. But besides that, I have nothing. The filmmakers took an unoriginal idea and ended up with a poorly made copy of The Ring. Slender Man may very well be the most creatively bankrupt movie of 2018. In a year with Truth or Dare, that says a lot.
½ out of 5
Julia Goldani Telles as Hallie
Joey King as Wren
Jaz Sinclair as Chloe
Annalise Basso as Katie
Taylor Richardson as Lizzie
Alex Fitzalan as Tom
Directed by Sylvain White
Written by David Birke