Let’s watch a tired and desperate cash grab.

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The whole Slender Man phenomena seems to have died off recently (perfect timing for a movie), but there is a fairly large following around this urban legend. My experience with it comes from the numerous videogame adaptations of the story where you have to flee from the lanky bastard and not be seen—or he kills or captures you.

The Slender Man creature is a pretty typical boogeyman, and there isn’t anything inherently wrong with that idea, but he isn’t especially intimidating. The imagery of a tall dude in black clothing isn’t all that threatening, so the film has a bit of a disadvantage going in as opposed to a Jason or Michael Myers. Further, that always disappointing PG-13 label means this film can’t substitute violence for scares.

We follow four teenage friends (Hallie, Wren, Katie, and Chloe) who decide to watch the “Summoning Slender Man” video at a sleep over. Immediately this reminded me of the old games of Bloody Mary or whatever, so there is a level of nostalgia here. The film also cast real teenagers (as opposed to 30-year-olds pretending to be young), so there is a level of care in the set-up.

However, the video is just kind of dumb, and watching it means that our titular villain will now haunt them. So, the movie is The Ring. More or less, you will be watching an adaptation of that film rather than a new lore focused horror tale. One of the girls almost immediately goes missing, and now the others must figure out what is going on. Here is where the movie starts to have some problems.

First, the abduction of Katie occurs too fast for the audience to have invested anything into the character. It is clear that Wren and Hallie will be the main characters, but even they are given very little development before we jump into the mystery. What complicates this even further is that there isn’t a lot of clarification of what Slender Man can and can’t do, and what he actually wants. Everything just seems to happen for plot convenience more than any sort of logical progression.

Perhaps most annoyingly is that the characters seem to not think there is anything supernatural happening. Arguments about what is going on drag the film, and don’t make a lot of sense given the sights and hallucinations they are all experiencing.

Now, usually we as the audience we get to experience these sights as well. Sometimes here we do, but this film manages to do something I have not seen before: it screws up jump scares. For whatever reason, none of the families in this film believe in overhead lighting, so the entire film is cast in deep shadows. Twice I had to rewind to see the “scare,” which is often just a shadowy figure moving in the background.

Small pulls at nostalgia and some well shot scenes don’t make up for messy set-ups, poor lore, and an overall lack of scares. Watching this is like watching Stranger Things without any of the fun. The film is a victim of poor concept—no matter what they did they were still making a movie about a creepypasta vine, and little more. However, the damn thing tripled its budget at the box office, so expect to see more of these rushed horror films in the future. For hardcore fans, give this one a pass.

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