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.