Is 'Slender Man' The Movie Scary? It's Not the Horror Movie it Should Be

Slender Man
Movie poster from 'Slender Man' (2018). Courtesy of Sony Pictures Entertainment

Slender Man, directed by Sylvain White and written by David Birke, tells the story of a group of teenagers who summon a monster through an internet.

Slender Man begins like any other horror film and opens on a small town. The focal character, Hallie (Julia Goldani Telles), has a normal life with a loving family, good friends and a boy she really likes. It's a typical set up for a typical horror movie.

Slender Man (2018)
Wren (Joey King) is terrorized by Slender Man while researching "paranormal" activity in Screen Gems' SLENDER MAN. Dana Starbard

One night Hallie and her friends decide to "summon" Slender Man by watching a cryptic video on an internet forum. They do this to prove that the urban legend is fake, but when one of the girls goes missing a week later they begin to suspect the opposite.

In their frantic search to find their friend, each girl becomes increasingly erratic as they are haunted by dreams and hallucinations of a menacing figure. The plot is contained entirely by horror tropes: teenagers inspect a mysterious noise when they should call the police; they dabble in the occult and summon an evil spirit; and they run through the woods from an unseen pursuer. Hallie is resistant to believe that her and her friends are being hunted by Slender Man even when those around her, including her younger sister, begin to devolve into madness.

Once you see Slender Man, you can never get him out of your head. He hunts you from inside your mind. The characters compare him to "a computer virus that infects your hard drive, but it's not a hard drive. It's your brain."

In one scene, Slender Man's branch-like tentacles sprout from his back. He uses them to chase Hallie through the forest like Doctor Octopus from Spider-Man.

Slender Man (2018)
Joey King (Wren) and Julia Goldani-Telles (Hallie) in Screen Gems' SLENDER MAN. Dana Starbard

The legend of Slender Man is that of a tall tree-like figure that preys on children and lures them into the woods. He is a "shadow person," a twisted Pied Piper, but he is not particularly frightening. The movie could have followed the path of Scream or Cabin in the Woods—films that poked fun at themselves while being genuinely scary—as a meta reimagining of a boogeyman created entirely by the internet. However, in this version the monster is real. The original pictures created for a real-life photoshop contest on a Something Awful forum in 2009 by Eric Knudsen are treated as real. The monster is on screen for a majority of the movie and this does nothing to enhance the fear of the audience.

Knudsen is credited in the film as the creator of Slender Man.

Slender Man has received some criticism for "capitalizing" on the 2014 stabbing of Payton Leutner in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where two young girls lured their classmate into the woods to kill her as an offering to the fictional specter, The Hollywood Reporter reported in January. The three girls were 12 to 13 at the time. The attack inspired an HBO documentary in 2016 called Beware the Slenderman. Theaters in Milwaukee will not be screening the movie.

Movie poster for 'Slender Man' (2018). Courtesy of Sony Pictures Entertainment

Slender Man opens in theaters Friday.