Disappointment (noun): The feeling of sadness or displeasure caused by the nonfulfillment of one’s hopes or expectations.
For as much as I would never deign to challenge either Merriam or Webster in the arena of diction mastery, I would like to posit that disappointment, as a concept, carries with it far more ideological weight than the above definition implies. Disappointment can take many forms, some innocuous, some approaching existential.
Dropping one’s ice cream cone on the pavement after an overzealous first lick is surely unpleasant, but not particularly damning. Comparatively, greeting the day with beer and a hot dog topped with Tony Packo’s famous chili sauce instead of two scrambled eggs in a whole grain flour tortilla is emblematic of a day for which there is little hope. Signaling similar hopelessness is the unavoidable fact that, at the time of this review’s publication, twelve percent of critics qualified to have their scores factored into Rotten Tomatoes metrics thought that Slender Man was deserving of a favorable rating.
In my defense, I had entirely forgotten about this film’s existence until I was informed by multiple people that it was akin to sloppy, sunbaked garbage. And so, ever the bannerman for terrible movies, I made my way to the first available screening (which was attended exclusively by myself and two seventy-plus women who chose to sit four rows from the screen). My hope was, predictably, that if it was destined to be awful, then at the very least it could generate the beautiful comedy that tends to sprout from the remains of poorly executed horror. Here again, I was confronted by disappointment.
Slender Man is a stunning achievement in film. By managing to deftly avoid even a single legitimate scare, demanding uniformly horrendous performances from each and every actor, presenting a script that would likely be rejected by the Hallmark Channel, harnessing the power of the very best VFX 2004 has to offer, and delivering a story that is both laughable and painfully overlong at only ninety-three minutes, Slender Man gives viewers the unique sensation that an invaluable portion of their finite lives has slipped away, never to be recovered.
Spending any amount of time attempting to seriously critique a movie based on a forum thread from a comedy website that was catapulted into the limelight by creepypastas and video games may be a losing proposition, as the premise alone (as well as the sizable gap between the height of Slenderman’s popularity and this film’s release) casts some serious doubt on the potential for a quality product, regardless of when it was made or by who. And yet, here we are. Sony, you’ve done it again.
The story of Slender Man plays something like an internet-age reinterpretation of The Ring, wherein a group of stupid high school students stream a video to summon Slender Man, a disproportionately skinny paranormal gentleman who sports a stylish tie, has no face, and passes his time terrorizing or kidnapping children for reasons unknown. After they’ve seen the footage, Slender Man seems to have some kind of hold on their minds and can torment them through means as unsettling as hallucinations or as oddly convenient as video calls. To make matters worse, the only apparent way to free one’s self from his long-fingered grasp is to “sacrifice something you love.”
What follows is a sequence of occasionally amusing and always idiotic events that were only effective in waking me from my boredom-induced coma when they crossed the line from by-the-numbers lazy into stunningly ill-considered. For instance, you can comfortably sleep through the sixty minutes of teenage girls delivering lines that were clearly written by a middle-aged man, but when a makeout session is interrupted by one of them having a CG freakout, or when the first thing a character does upon being warned not to remove her blindfold is to whip it off and run screaming through the woods, things liven up ever so slightly.
Were I to sit here and try to sift through each and every failed element of Slender Man from the script to the performances to the pacing to the special effects, I would doubtless sit in front of my computer until I withered away; and if I die, and the last movie I watched before I shed my mortal coil was Slender Man, then I will be left with no alternatives to the idea that my existence has been an elaborately constructed cautionary tale, a la Tantalus, Sisyphus, or the specific section of Prometheus’ story where he has his liver violently extracted by tactless eagle. Instead, I have composed a list of all of the things for which Slender Man deserves praise.
- There were exactly two instances where shadows were used to good, ominous effect in signaling the presence of the titular spooky slim fellow.
- Most of the shots were in focus.
Even for people who aren’t especially into film, it should be apparent that if these are the only things about which someone who saw a movie can speak positively, then it’s probably best to stay as far away as humanly possible.
And so we return to disappointment. My expectations for Slender Man were, if possible, subterranean. I had given this film such little thought that its existence had entirely faded from my mind, so my only hope for the experience was that it would be worth a chuckle or two. If a horror movie fails to deliver the spooks (and does this one ever; not even jump scares and obnoxious audio cues can get the job done), it should at least plummet with enough incompetence to become an unintentional comedy. Slender Man is, in every sense, a graceless faceplant.
And so, allow me to extend this warning to anybody tempted by the siren song of poorly received movies: please, please don’t watch Slender Man. It is a miserable slog that fails even to successfully burn through an hour and a half (I can assure you, it will feel much longer). Even The Emoji Movie provided the invaluable service of acting as a conduit for anger and resentment; it was outstandingly hateable. Slender Man is hardly worth the energy required to rage against its noodly, faceless form. It’s far better to simply forget, and hope that the thick cloud of disappointment left in its wake eventually dissipates.