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Thursday, December 2, 2021

Silver Lining Horrors: Revisiting Sylvain White’s ‘Slender Man’

Watching a bad movie doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad experience. Even the worst films can boast a good idea or two, and that’s why we’re trying to look on the bright side with Silver Lining Horrors, where we shine a light on the best parts of traditionally maligned horror flicks. This time, we’ll be discussing 2018’s Slender Man!

From winning a spooky photoshop competition to becoming a worldwide phenomenon in just a few short years, it’s no wonder that Eric Knudsen’s infamous Slender Man would eventually find its way to the big screen. The real mystery here is why it took so long for a big studio to finally tackle the faceless menace, with Sony’s 2018 film being preceded by nearly a decade of viral memes, YouTube channels and even extremely successful videogames.

Nevertheless, Sylvain White’s take on this seminal internet legend managed to make an impact, though it probably wasn’t what the director and producers had intended. Starring Joey King, Jaz Sinclair, Annalise Basso and more as an ensemble of teenagers who find themselves being stalked by the titular entity (played by genre veteran Javier Botet), Slender Man takes quite a bit of inspiration from The Ring when adapting this eerie meme for a brand-new audience.

Boasting talented young actors, extremely stylish directing and a script informed by years of online folklore surrounding the internet’s most recognizable monster, the long-awaited film appeared to be destined for success.


SO WHAT WENT WRONG?

Joey King (Wren) and Julia Goldani-Telles (Hallie) in Screen Gems’ Slender Man.

Scoring 8% on Rotten Tomatoes and 3.2/10 on IMDB (plus a Golden Raspberry “award” for Jaz Sinclair), it’s clear that neither critics nor audiences really connected with this retelling of the Slender Man story. While the film wasn’t exactly a box office failure, there was a notable drop in ticket sales as word-of-mouth began to spread and audiences realized that this wasn’t the internet-based scary movie that they had been waiting for.

It’s easy to dismiss this failure as yet another case of “bad movie results in bad reviews”, but there was more going behind the scenes than most people seem to realize. Sylvain apparently dealt with loads of studio interference during the project, with producers eventually demanding that he cut the picture down to a PG-13 rating and remove many scenes that had already been featured in the trailer.

Having already faced bad luck with studio-backed horror pictures in 2006, when the director was infamously given only two weeks to prepare for the production of I’ll Always Know What You Did Last Summer, White once again got the short end of the stick. Not only was he forced to compromise his creative vision, but audiences were left with a nearly unintelligible finished film that ends abruptly without concluding several of its own subplots.

The controversy surrounding the Slender Man story didn’t help either, with the film releasing four years after an infamous stabbing perpetrated by a couple of fans attempting to “appease” the fictional entity. When the first trailer was released, the father of one of the convicted teenagers publicly denounced the film, requesting a boycott in the Wisconsin area. This ended up intimidating the studio, which subsequently toned down their marketing campaign and demanded further cuts in order to distance the project from the real-world tragedy.


THE SILVER LINING:

If you can get past the studio-mandated cuts and janky screenplay, I’d argue that there is a decent movie hidden somewhere beneath the surface of Sony’s Slender Man. The cast and crew are clearly talented enough to produce a watchable film, and dissecting the trailers reveals a plethora of interesting scenes and ideas that were removed from the finished product. In fact, even in its current mutilated state, there are still quite a few things to love about this ill-fated horror flick.

Javier Botet turns in a brief yet terrifyingly memorable performance as the titular entity, doing the internet legend justice as he blends in with the woods and pursues desperate teenagers both digitally and in the real world. There may be a few too many CGI embellishments during his appearances, but kudos to the Slender Man movie for at least getting the look of the monster right. I particularly like how the iconic suit is actually part of the creature’s body, making it look like an otherworldly being attempting to emulate a human.

The movie actually boasts great visuals in general, with the entire picture benefiting from a gloomy, nightmarish vibe. The surreal atmosphere and unsettling imagery make this an appropriately creepy horror flick even when no one appears to be in any danger. This is mostly due to Luca Del Puppo’s slick lighting and cinematography, which somehow makes it feel like the titular entity is always watching from afar.

Slender Man even has a couple of thrilling chase sequences, all of which highlight White’s strengths as a versatile filmmaker. The director often relies on clever camera setups and the creature’s elongated silhouette in order to deliver simple yet stylish scares, making great use of classic visual horror tropes like the Jacob’s Ladder head shake and even a couple of effectively disorienting Dolly Zooms.

At the end of the day, I’d say that that Slender Man isn’t really a filmmaking disaster, it’s just clearly unfinished. It may be far from a traditionally good scary movie, but there’s enough good material here for me to want to see a proper R-rated director’s cut. However, even if we never get to see a superior version of the film, I hope that other filmmakers can learn from its noble attempt at adapting an internet myth to the big screen.



source https://bloody-disgusting.com/editorials/3693981/silver-lining-horrors-revisiting-slender-man/

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