Slender Man (2018) is a nightmare. Not because the creature is too terrifying, nor is the story so scary it’ll stick with you. No…it’s a nightmare in terms of filmmaking. The performances aren’t good, the script is terrible, and the visuals are laughable at best. Nothing about this movie works in any way, making it easily one of the worst films I’ve sat through this year. Director Sylvain White has made a few good films – Stomp the Yard and Losers, notably – and writer David Birke wrote Elle (2016), so it’s unclear exactly where this movie went so wrong. Perhaps it’s because it is attempting to turn an internet myth into a blockbuster property.
If Slender Man falls in the woods would anybody care?
Hallie (Julia Goldani Telles) and her friends Wren (Joey King), Chloe (Jaz Sinclair), and Katie (Annalise Basso) decide to “summon” the Slender Man after hearing that a few guys at school were also going to do it. After watching a video online, the girls all appear to be having nightmares or visions about him – or at least that what the movie wants us to understand, as it jumps ahead a week and Wren briefly mentions it – plus we see Hallie wake up from a nightmare, and Katie seems constantly distracted. Katie is left alone during a high school field trip of a historic cemetery – nope…not joking – and goes missing, leading Wren to call Katie’s phone and say, “we’re all prisoners here because of you”. Katie’s disappearance leaves her friends relatively unbothered for a while before they decide to solve the mystery of their missing friend.
There are several plot lines that get mentioned or dropped seemingly at random. This film was probably three hours at some point, and someone likely said the film needed to be less than two hours. Normally, I agree that a movie should be less than two hours, but there is so much missing it’s hard to believe it wasn’t just cut out last minute to meet the runtime. It’s also possible there were several versions of the script that were pieced together before an intern dropped it – scattering all the pages – followed by him haphazardly putting them all back together with no regard for the order. If it sounds like I’m being too harsh, let me point out a few things that really stood out as weak …
POSSIBLE SPOILER AHEAD BUT TRUST ME IT’S BETTER YOU HEAR IT FROM ME THAN WASTE YOUR MONEY.
For one, in the original trailer and on IMDb.com, we see Kallie Tabor coming out of the woods looking all crazy and possessed while the police approach her. She does not appear in the movie, but the character she is credited as is “Allison Riley”. This character plays a major role in the actual movie, but only as an online presence…never once is Kallie shown in the flesh. Thus, this leads me to believe there was tons of footage with the actress that didn’t make it into the final cut.
Tom (Alex Fitzalan) is the romantic interest for Hallie, though he really doesn’t show up until nearly the third act. When this relationship suddenly takes form (especially with the added resentment from Wren, for no apparent reason), it implies that there was more to this story than what is is depicted on screen. The same thing can be said regarding Hallie’s track history, and Chloe’s father issues. There are a wealth of things mentioned or referenced that seem to be important, but they aren’t treated that way throughout the film. Of course, the worst element of this mistreatment is seen in the relationship between the four lead characters.
They are supposed to be best friends, but most of the time it doesn’t seem that way at all. The awful conversations written for the first scene with Katie and Hallie, followed by the next scene of the four of them walking and talking in the hallway doesn’t even sound like Birke has heard teenagers speak before. I would believe he Googled popular teen phrases, and then wrote some dialogue that he thought would seem believable. Nothing about the way the girls interact or react make their “friendship” the slightest bit believable. The whole movie rested on us buying into them, and nothing they do encourages us to do that.
White’s choices to give us horror often resulted in audible laughter. Not fun laughter that you might hear during an old Nightmare on Elm Street or Friday the 13th film, but laughter aimed at how unbelievably awful the visuals assaulting our eyeballs were. That awkward laughter that you make is reminiscent of when you think surely you’ve being pranked, and if you can just laugh enough the prankster will reveal themselves. That’s not what happens though. Instead, White rapidly changes style or reuses visual elements, while paying zero attention to the tone or mood his film is failing to establish. Are we watching Scooby-Doo, or Supernatural? Is this a spin-off of the Ring, or maybe the Grudge? Will our monster at least be somewhat terrifying, or will it have a compelling reason for doing the things it does? No spoilers, but none of those questions are truly answered, as the film bounces around through so many ideas and horrible exposition, that it seems to confuse itself.
Seriously, don’t see this movie. One element of the film tries to imply that Slender Man is an internet virus of sorts. He infects your brain and causes you to go insane. In that regard, it’s almost like the filmmakers and Sony studios wanted me to give it the only rating that would fit such a description. Thus, I’ll oblige, and give this horrid waste of my time the Avoid like the Plague rating.