Slender Story (Slender Man, 2018)

Slender_Man_PosterAs social media has become a larger and larger part of our lives, film makers have tried to incorporate this into the horror genre.  Films have tried to tackle both the fears of the Dark Web and supernatural takes on social media usage.  Unfriended and it’s sequel Unfriended: Dark Web actually go both routes.  From cyber-bullying to ghosts…they are trying to make it work. So far, there have not really been any standouts. And the general fears of technology that dehumanizes us has been a common trope for Asian Horror for decades.

Slender Man takes the popular Creepy Pasta internet meme and sets him up as the big scary.  A bunch of friends go online and perform a ritual to summon the Slender Man. After one of the girls disappears, they attempt to bring her back, back the ritual goes awry and the Slender Man keeps coming for the girls because he wants to drive them mad or send them to the bad place or something.

The film borrows from established lore (such as Slender Man taking people to his home and preferring the young) and also from other horror films (apparently it takes a week for the scary stuff to begin, similar to the Ring’s seven days and then you die). But even when it sets rules, it fails to stick to them. Later in the film, a character apparently goes to the magical website and is freaking out the next day.

None of the characters are that compelling, and we are never given any real deep indication of what drives our leads, so the stakes just do not feel that high. There are a few times where they give visual hints of the presence of Slender Man, but the film really fails to use this as well as it could.

The creepiness of Slender Man is found in him being seen from the corner of your eye, or off in the distance. If the film was going for a “is he real or not” you could maybe justify how little effort there seems to be to make his threat seem real. But the film makes it clear from the start he is a legit entity. As such, the film really would have benefited from playing with the viewers by inserting Slender Man into the background of scenes. Like when the girls are talking, you suddenly realize he is somewhere in the distance. Leave the audience unnerved.

Slender_Man_Forest

Of course, as I noted the central problem here is that none of the characters have any personality, not even by the low standards of bad horror films. And honestly, I had to fight falling asleep with the film. It just does not do enough with hit’s subject matter to keep the viewer interested in or invested in the characters or possible thrills.

In the Distance (Always Watching: A Marble Hornets Story, 2015)

Always_Watching_PosterA TV crew is doing a new story on a business that clears out homes that were foreclosed upon by the bank. In one house, they are shocked to find the home looks as if the family just vanished. As they start to investigate, they find a box of tapes and find that this is not a story of a mean bank foreclosing on a family or a family that picked up and ran off. They discover that the tapes show that the family was being haunted or stocked by a mysterious person.

At first, they see him in the distance of a video of a child’s birthday party. But the more videos they watch, the more the mysterious (and faceless) figure appears. Always a little closer until he is in the house.

Camera Man Milo starts to study the tapes and this results in him starting to see the figure himself. He is able to convince co-workers Sara and Charlie he is not crazy and they try and solve the mystery. But the mystery begins to take a toll on the three and their relationships begin to break down.

The Operator is obviously mean to be Slender Man, minus the tentacles. Actor Doug Jones (Hellboy, the Shape of Water and Pan’s Labyrinth) mainly has to stand around in the background a lot, but his lankiness and height really sell the idea of the Operator as slightly outside of reality. And the film really makes sure to keep you watching, sure that at any moment he might appear on the screen, in the corner, behind someone or in the woods.  It is pretty effectively done.

It runs a bit off the rails at the very end, where it introduces an element we had not really seen earlier in the film, but it is not so much so that it wrecks the creepier vibe from the rest of the film.

Overall, I enjoyed the film, with the biggest setback being that it is a “found footage” film. Admittedly, the fact that our leads are a television news crew makes it fairly plausible that they have access to a variety of cameras, but the format also forces a plot contrivance that since you can only see him on video, they decide they must keep cameras running continuously.

Oh yeah…the film has a great horror icon film cameo towards the end. Smart choice on the film makers’ part.

 

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