Well, here’s a big surprise: Sony Pictures has made yet another dumb, stupid movie that trades on a familiar brand name rather than trying to do anything innovative or worthwhile.
Having already created “The Emoji Movie”, the most cynical attempt to exploit internet culture in the history of modern cinema, the company has now released a trailer for “Slender Man”, a film which is essentially exactly the same thing, taking an internet meme and blowing it up pointlessly into a huge movie that nobody asked for.
The trailer starts with the most generic horror images imaginable. Maggots. Screaming. Something getting stabbed in the eye with a needle. Then, it’s all downhill from there.
It’s clear that this horror film has been reverse engineered – rather than starting with anything vaguely resembling a decent story, some executive at Sony greenlit a Slender Man movie and convinced the creative team to work backwards from there, producing an incredibly generic spooky film with nothing interesting to say.
There are two big problems with this approach.
The first problem is that, as has been proven in other media, Slender Man has the potential to be an incredibly powerful horror character.
While the trailer for the “Slender Man” movie is full of jumpscares and random screaming, other incarnations of this character are built around the slow burn, and the mystery of an entity that can’t be filmed.
This has always been a perfect monster for the internet to obsess over, as it grew out of the Something Awful forum’s creepy photoshop contest into a full-blown phenomenon.
The early pictures of Slendy show him, blurred and distorted, in a series of images that force the viewer to inspect closely to actually spot him. It’s a kind of morbid Where’s Waldo, as half the fun becomes scaring yourself as you search for tiny glimpses of the creature.
The genius part of the Slender Man mythos is the idea that the creature can’t be photographed or filmed – in an age where camera technology is so advanced, there’s something spooky about someone who makes film footage flicker whenever he’s nearby.
For a better look at Slender Man storytelling than anything Sony could throw together in a feature length movie, check out “Marble Hornet”, a YouTube video series that was perhaps the first big hit using this character.
Just let that playlist run for about ten minutes, and you’ll get the gist of what the series is doing. It’s really impressive.
Then there’s the “Slender” video games, starting first as a spooky free game, before evolving into a longer, more in-depth, commercially available experience.
Again, flickering cameras are used to scare the player. Slendy isn’t constantly attacking as you dash around in the woods, but he’s a constant presence, never moving when you look at him, but always just a little out of sight.
This is the true charm of the Slender Man mythos. It’s not about seeing a scary monster; it’s about tricking your own brain into thinking you’ve seen him when he’s nowhere in sight.
None of this seems to have registered with the creators of the “Slender Man” movie – at least, not if the trailer can be believed. There’s no camera distortion, no chance for a sense of unease and dread to build up. People are screaming constantly in the trailer, there’s blood everywhere, and Slendy pops up more than once just for the sake of a cheap scare, making him entirely uninteresting.
There is, though, another reason why Sony’s Slender Man movie deserves ire.
For some strange reason, based on the trailer, it seems as if the movie studio has attempted to piggyback on the real-life Slender Man abduction for a quick way to earn recognition points.
The trailer mentions a daughter that has gone missing, and focuses on teenage girls under the influence of the creature’s control, which really feels in poor taste, considering that this genuinely happened in real life.
The case of two girls kidnapping, torturing, and attempting to murder a fellow classmate, all in the name of Slender Man, is well known. The girls were clearly suffering from severe mental illness which manifested as an obsession with a fictional character, and the specifics of their case aren’t really something that a movie should be attempting to dramatize in this manner.
The father of one of the girls who committed the crime has spoken out against Sony’s movie, stating just how callous, cruel, and morally reprehensible it is to try and use a real life attempted murder case as the basis for a supernatural horror film.
Bill Weier, whose daughter will be spending at least twenty five years in a mental institution as a result of her actions, stated:
“It’s absurd they want to make a movie like this. It’s popularizing a tragedy is what it’s doing. I’m not surprised, but in my opinion it’s extremely distasteful. All we’re doing is extending the pain all three of these families have gone through.”
Weier is right; this is incredibly distasteful.
There are plenty of directions that Sony could have gone with a Slender Man movie. Neither the plot of the “Marble Hornets” YouTube channel, nor the story of the “Slender” video games, center around teenage girls going missing in the woods.
Instead of coming up with an original story, Sony has attempted to piggyback off the infamy of a real life tragedy for the sake of scoring recognition points with audiences. This is disgusting, morally reprehensible, and entirely inappropriate.
If you have any desire to see a terrifying live-action Slender Man story, stay away from this movie. It’s not worth your time.
Bingewatch some YouTube, play a video game, or find some other way to enjoy this character. Do not give your money to Sony for their poorly made attempt to prolong the suffering of real families in order to make a few quick bucks.