Slen­der MAN

Empire (UK) - - ON SCREEN - SI­MON BRAUND

★★

OUT now CERT 15 / 93 mins

Di­rec­tor Syl­vain White

cast Joey King, Ju­lia Goldani Telles, Jaz Sin­clair, An­nalise Basso, Tay­lor Richard­son, Alex Fitza­lan, Javier Botet

PLOT A group of friends at­tempt to prove child-snatch­ing in­ter­net de­mon Slen­der Man doesn’t ex­ist by call­ing on him to ap­pear. Then — who’d have guessed it? — one of them dis­ap­pears.

WITH­OUT THE WILL­ING sus­pen­sion of dis­be­lief, the his­tory of cin­ema would’ve ground to a halt shortly af­ter the lu­mières’ steam train pulled into the sta­tion. But there are lim­its. take this wholly un­nec­es­sary ad­di­tion to the teen-hor­ror canon, for ex­am­ple: hap­less high-school­ers sum­mon forth the tit­u­lar bo­gey­man not by recit­ing an an­cient and for­bid­den in­can­ta­tion, nor even by ven­tur­ing to the god­for­saken reaches of the dark web. nope, 20-odd sec­onds on google and the job’s done. if it were that easy, a highly over­worked Slendy would have more hits than Youtube and ev­ery teenager on the planet would be em­broiled in spindle­shanked su­per­nat­u­ral an­tics within the week. that said, lack of be­liev­abil­ity is the least of this film’s prob­lems.

the mo­ment the Slen­der Man, an in­ter­net meme born on the Some­thing Aw­ful web­site in 2009, hit the net, a movie ver­sion was in­evitable. And why not? A spi­dery-limbed phan­tasm with a fea­ture­less face and the an­ti­so­cial habit of ab­duct­ing chil­dren, he has all the cre­den­tials to head up a vi­able hor­ror fran­chise, a Ju-on or Ringu for a gen­er­a­tion of movie­go­ers who wouldn’t know a VCR from a JCB. Much of the on­line fan fic­tion, mock blogs and found footage is gen­uinely creepy, and Slen­der­ma­nia seeped un­com­fort­ably into the real world in 2014 when two 12-year-old girls in Wis­con­sin kid­napped and bru­tally stabbed a class­mate in or­der to ap­pease him. With fod­der like that, the film might, you’d think, have made it­self. But it ac­tu­ally fell to di­rec­tor Syl­vain White and screen­writer David Birke, and their woe­fully by-the-num­bers ef­fort misses the ap­peal of this most zeit­geisty of folk tales by a coun­try mile.

Where in­sid­i­ous, es­ca­lat­ing dis­quiet is called for White opts in­stead for hum­drum ‘boo!’ scares and an al­most re­lent­less pro­ces­sion of genre clichés. Jar­ring, sur­real dream im­agery? Check. time-lapse clouds rac­ing across a colour­fil­tered sky? Yup. eerie, bleached-out day­light and cam­era flare? uh-huh. gross stuff com­ing out of some­one’s mouth when they look in the mir­ror? Ab­so­lutely. tolling church bell with omi­nous down­ward pitch bend? You betcha. there’s even an in­ter­net re­search se­quence in which quick-fire im­ages of macabre, me­dieval go­ings-on are ac­com­pa­nied by latin text flash­ing past as the searchee comes to the re­al­i­sa­tion that, “omg. it’s all real!”

Apart from the odd mo­ment of vis­ual in­ven­tive­ness (and you know what they say about sum­mer and swal­lows), the only thing Slen­der Man has go­ing for it is its cast, par­tic­u­larly Joey King, the B-movie Chloë grace Moretz, whose unswerv­ing com­mit­ment to her off-the-shelf char­ac­ter is a les­son in pro­fes­sion­al­ism. She, like the Slen­der Man him­self, de­serves bet­ter than this.

VER­DICT promis­ing source ma­te­rial and a tal­ented cast are squan­dered in a stale, rigidly for­mu­laic J-hor­ror wannabe. Slen­der Man equals slim pick­ings for all but the most un­de­mand­ing devo­tees.

Joey King at­tempts to catch the Slen­der Man with her gi­ant nov­elty light-up ring.

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