“Slender Man” is a horror movie released in 2018 based on the popular “creepypasta” that debuted in 2009. It is approximately 93 minutes long. It costars Joey King (“The Kissing Booth”). I can tell you all of this because the information is available on the Internet, yet despite having just seen the movie earlier today, I’m having trouble remembering a single thing that actually happens over its runtime. I’ve gone into a dissociative state once in my life, and honestly, this doesn’t feel dissimilar to that.
It’s not just that “Slender Man” fails at the things we expect from a horror movie or a movie in general, it’s that those things are completely absent. There’s no plot or story, there’s just one sequence of scares stuck to another with duct tape and spit. Four girls decide to summon “Slender Man,” as young girls in 2018 are wont to do. Uh oh, Slender Man shows up and does some ill-defined evil mumbo-jumbo with no apparent end goal. Then the movie ends. Over the 93 minutes, nothing anybody does makes any sense. The girls all just sort of accept at a certain point that Slender Man is haunting them and wait to die, and that’s the movie. They don’t fight back, because that would mean the writers would have to make them active, interesting characters, and who wants that?
For all the sins of the “story,” the characters fare somehow worse. None of the girls go through a change beyond moving from “not haunted” to “haunted,” but more than that, nobody is given a character to begin with. From beginning to end, they’re just featureless mannequins meant to carry us to the next hackneyed scare. Of the four girls that we begin the movie with, one of them disappears almost immediately, and another is seemingly forgotten by the script. The last two are saddled with two of the most laughable fates in recent horror history in a sequence that prompted one of the high-school aged “Slender” fans in front of me to stand up and declare to the theater and his friends, “Fuck it. I’m out.”
What horror there is can easily be divided into three camps: the classic jump scare, the creepy imagery without rhyme or reason and the stupid. If you’re not a fan of loud noises trying to tell you when to be scared, just wait and there will be a scene where a girl dreams she gives birth to Slender Man or where Slender Man uses FaceTime, both of which are things that actually happen. Perhaps the best thing that can be said about “Slender Man” is that there’s a variety of bad horror instead of just one kind. Cinematographer Luca del Puppo (“Mercy”) shoots it all in the most monotonous, ugly low light possible — the kind of darkness that will have you pleading for someone, anyone to turn on a damn light — but the movie is unpredictable in its awfulness nonetheless.
Perhaps most disappointingly, there was a scenario where “Slender Man” actually had a purpose. Since its creation, Slender Man has become something of a dark mascot for lonely young people, climaxing in 2014 when two young girls stabbed their friend 19 times in order to become servants of the creature, as chronicled in HBO’s 2017 documentary “Beware the Slenderman.” There was an opportunity for this interpretation of the “Slender Man” mythos to engage with the same topics that doc covered — loneliness and how the internet can be used to spread a story — but from a different perspective. While there are brief, brief moments where these things are touched upon, they play almost no part in the story at large and no statement is made; it’s as pointless as anything else.
With a movie lacking completely in story, character development, horror and purpose, what is there to bring audiences to the theater? There’s some unintentional comedy to be sure — there’s a supposedly “scary” moment so soul-crushingly stupid that it sent the entire theater into hysterics — but more than anything, “Slender Man” is just dull. It’s an absolute chore to sit through in a way few movies are, and each successive scene of nothing happening just makes it worse.