Before watching this film I’d heard a lot of bad things about it, and I’m here to tell you that they’re all true. As a lover of all things awful though I knew I owed it to myself to give it a watch. I’m glad I did, because while as a horror movie, this is truly just awful. As a comedy though, there is some value and fun to be had.
A strong start.
The film follows a group of teens, Wren, Hallie, Katie and Chloe, who are such well developed characters that they don’t even have last names. They are supposed to be teenagers, and they do look roughly the right age, but dear god the dialogue is just unbelievable. I’m convinced that it must have been written by a bunch of studio bosses that haven’t interacted with the ‘youth’ in decades. It was only a year since I was a teen myself, and I can say that none of us ever speak like the caricatures in this movie. The very first thing they discuss is a YouTube cat video, commenting that it would be cuter if it exploded? Then one of them meows. Literally. The scene is so cringeworthy that it’s been cut out of the extended previews online. The acting is atrocious but I hesitate to completely blame the actresses since the script is dire. They are all equally awful though, and the side characters are no better.
So after the frankly bizarre cat video scene, the film properly opens with an equally inane conversation in a school hallway. Stilted dialogue highlights include, “Super funny, like whoa” (complete with gratuitous vocal fry of course) and “The dudebros in their natural habitat, let’s observe shall we?”. The girls awkwardly ‘flirt’ (I think) with some guys, only one of which will ever be seen again for an absolutely brilliant CGI moment which I’ll get to later. The girls are going to hang out for the night, and just before that, Hallie’s little sister sees Wren coming to the door. This is to set up a friendship there since Wren is going to introduce the sister to Slender Man later on, but they only interact once, and the tone of the scene seems more like the sister is in love with Wren, so it really doesn’t pay off. So the four friends laugh and giggle, they watch a porn film (which we don’t see or hear, thank god), they have a little chat, then out of absolutely nowhere, they search up Slender Man and watch a video to summon him. This is not the only Googling scene in the film, and it’s reminiscent of Twilight, but worse. Chloe narrates a Google page about it for some super subtle exposition, literally telling us exactly what is going to happen next in the story. This is 5 minutes into the film, and we’ve just been told the entire plot. Wow.
The ‘summoning’ video is an issue all on its own. So they play it, and we see some unusual, unsettling imagery that seems unrelated cut together. There’s a blue tone over the shots. Some of it is related to a death later in the film. A creepy high pitched music plays over the scene. And best of all once they watch it, they’re doomed by Slender Man. Yep, they tried to rip off The Ring. It’s just not even close though. The tape scene in that film makes me feel properly uncomfortable like I’ve just watched something genuinely dangerous. The video scene in this film just makes me groan with cringe, and anger at the blatant copying. Not cool.
The ‘meat’ of the story.
So the film trundles on, Katie vanishes out of the film which is the catalyst for the rest of the ‘story’. However, it has no impact on us since she has absolutely no development. All she has done in the film is chat about cat videos and watch a porno, so it’s pretty hard to connect to or care about the character. After Katie disappears, her father breaks into Hallie’s house, convinced that the friends are hiding her somewhere. He violently confronts her, and it feels as though he’s being set up as a proper threat in the plot, since they have a scene showing his alcoholism too. But no. The next night, the girls break into his house instead to snoop in Katie’s room for clues. One of them stays at the front door to distract him and they have a little ’emotional’ chat. So is he an abusive bad father? Or is he a pitiful man who just lost his child? We don’t find out, and he is never seen or mentioned again. Great.
The 3 remaining girls enter the woods to confront Slender Man, and it doesn’t work. But then it does, and Chloe breaks the magic circle and looks at Slender Man, which curses her? Or something? It’s so darkly lit that it’s nearly impossible to see what’s happening. Which is a shame, since the only positive thing I can say about the film is that there is some nice cinematography, but sometimes that gets screwed up too. This leads to the point which I find the least funny, and the most frustrating out of all the problems. Chloe (for no discernible reason) opts to lie to her friends about her meeting Slender Man. Wren can tell something is wrong and keeps asking her about it, causing conflict between the friends as Chloe and Hallie think Wren is going mad. That’s right, they shoehorn in a forced conflict just to create character drama in the most cliched way I can possibly imagine. Immediately after that happens you just wait for the girls to realise, ‘Oh no! Wren was right all along, we should have listened to her!’ There are multiple obvious cliches (to the point where you can predict all incoming story beats) but I think that one is the most irritating because the film can’t even be bothered to provide us a good excuse for Chloe to lie about the whole situation.
So after the pointless friend conflict, Chloe goes mad and strangles herself, it’s not seen if she dies, but similarly to Katie and her father, she just vanishes out of the movie and is never mentioned again. I didn’t even realise it till after the ending, I actually thought I must have missed a scene, but no. It’s just that bad. Now we’re down to 2 friends, and one of them, Wren goes to the library in a scene which I was almost ready to praise, for actually feeling similar to the game. She runs around the library corners in terror, and each time she turns, Slender Man is there. There’s a shot of her face made blank like his too, which actually looked not bad. I thought, ok, that’s fine, just keep it up, but not even 10 seconds later they ruin it. There’s a very odd scene where the library corridor stretches till it just looks silly, and the effects are really not good. I am by no means an expert in the lore of the character, but I wasn’t aware that he could warp space and time. To top it all off, they decide to attempt a jumpscare, which consists of putting a loud boom noise over a woman slowly walking through the library. In what universe is that a good scare?!
Is this the ending? I’m not sure, but I hope so.
So we inch closer to the end of the film. Hallie goes to see one of the boys from the opening scene to hang out, but she’s starting to go a bit mad too. This leads to by far the funniest scene of the film. So they lie on the couch together, they kiss, then something happens… I don’t know how they shot this but oh my god. His face is still while the background zooms in and out. Loud noises are screeching in the background, then his face glitches out, then it cuts again and his face twists into what I think was supposed to be like the expressions in The Ring, but again it just doesn’t compare to what it’s ripping off. It’s hard to describe quite how ridiculous it looks but I was laughing almost hysterically when it happened. In fact I laughed out loud pretty often during the film which I know was not the intended reaction.
We’re almost at the ending now, but just before we get there, something odd happens. There is a short scene in a school classroom. Nothing happens, but there is an animal eye shown on the desk. Hmm, strange. This is because there was supposed to be an eye getting stabbed in this scene, which got cut out to try for the PG-13 rating. Instead we are left with 30 seconds of characters giving each other dramatic looks, and then a random eyeball, which should really have been left on the cutting room floor. I noticed another instance of this a few minutes later when Wren is about to jump out of a window to commit suicide. Hallie just stands and watches, but then all of a sudden pulls her away. Again, the scene got cut for the PG-13 rating, and it’s stilted, disjointed, and obvious. No context is given for either of these scenes which really messes with the flow of the film and leaves the viewer baffled. Wren and Hallie have an angsty chat for a minute, then Wren is unceremoniously wrenched out of the window by Slender Man, and we don’t actually get to see what happens to her. This is the 4th character that this happens to. There is no atmosphere and no tension, I actually didn’t know that this was supposed to be the climax yet. All of a sudden Hallie goes to the woods, then she is made into a tree. Yep. That’s the ending to the film. She just walks into the woods. Goes near a tree. Then the roots grow into her and she is now inside a tree. My husband and I just sat back, floored at what we had just watched. The cherry on top though, is an ending narration from Hallie’s sister which is thematically irrelevant to the plot, over a shot of unrelated students walking down the school hall. (A setting which has only been used twice).
Thank God it’s over- I mean, Conclusion:
Wow. I can’t understand how a film could go so badly wrong. A lot of these problems could be quite easily fixed. The pacing is jarring, probably due to the very short 1hr 30m running time which is just not enough to set up either the story, or any of the characters properly. Everything moves at a breakneck speed and scenes end without any warning which left me confused about what was important to the story and what was unimportant. Another huge problem is that it isn’t scary in the slightest. There were so many cheap and pointless jumpscares that weren’t clever or done well, By far the worst one though was a girl walking down the stairs and looking out the window. Nothing changes or moves in the scene but we hear a loud sound. Even though the sound was clearly non-diegetic, the girl screams and runs back up the stairs for no reason. This kind of thing happens a lot. It’s not scary, it’s hilariously bad. Another reason that the fear factor is absent, is that it’s just too late. Slender Man was creepy for a while back when the game came out, I remember everyone playing it at school and jumping out of their seats. That would’ve been the perfect time to release this film and I can’t figure out why they waited so long. By this time, Slender Man has been demystified, he’s been made into memes, creepypasta ships, and fanfictions to the point where this character had no chance of actually being scary regardless of the film’s quality or lack thereof. It was just too late.
Overall, I could go on for hours about how terrible this film was. This review may seem harsh, but honestly I did enjoy how bad it was, so I give it one point back for being funny-bad. I’d give it a 2/10.