While its enigmatic heart and soul will keep many horror fans holding on, Slender Man is a weak effort riddled in clichés and too little resolution. We already knew whodunnit – a slender faceless octopus-like man that resembles what that stoner kid in class used to sketch all over his homework. Only we never quite figure out the whydunnit part of the mystery. Thereby the Slender Man (Javier Botet) creeps in the footsteps of other motiveless movie monsters like Michael Myers or Ghostface; if you’re down with the unexplained slasher-style nightmare, enjoy your popcorn and don’t ask questions.
However, if you prefer your scares with a bit more depth, or even a plate of fava beans a nice Chianti, Slender Man may leave you wanting more.
It’s that movie you’ve seen without having to actually see it. Sacrificial in nature, the plot immediately introduces four small town high school girls of varying angst (Joey King, Jaz Sinclair, Julia Goldani Telles, and Annalise Basso). With little to do other than drink vodka and giggle about boys, the quartet eventually fall prey to their own curiosity and Google their way to an urban legend that simply must be explored. They discover that the Slender Man preys on children and proceeds to drive them mad and/or takes them for his own hellish whatever. Without giving away too much, this is pretty much how the story cascades.
The spotlight casts itself upon Hallie (Telles), simply because she’s going to be the last one standing. Using an effective formula that’s steered countless other slasher flix, the movie delivers in short pieces, but as a whole it never gives viewers a chance to care enough about its victims and misses psychological opportunities that would have really made things interesting.
Despite the emotional disconnection, there’s a lot to admire here. Director Sylvain White, a genre vet with 2006’s I’ll Always Know What You Did Last Summer, clenches his audience with use of tight framing and splashes of handheld verite that render a never-ending maze, pushing characters and audiences alike through a darkness that distinguishes no safe space. Luca Del Puppo’s cinematography illuminates the legend’s online origins with an electronically inspired landscape that keeps its heroines tinted iPhone blue. Javier Benassar’s sound design seamlessly infuses theme and ambiance with Brandon Campbell and Ramin Djawadi’s rich musical score that’s both traditional and hip in the same baleful tone.
Overall, Slender Man offers exactly what you’d expect from the marketing, and little else. As a work of slasher-horror it’s technically well-made, though there’s little here for genre fans to actually get scared over – which is really the whole point of movies like this. Even worse, there’s little effort to make its mysterious title character more interesting than its internet notoriety would have you believe, meaning this lackluster attempt to create a new horror icon falls flat.