I’m publishing this review in Comic Sans out of sheer spite. Not all devices will be able to view in Comic Sans, so just know I tried, it’s the thought that counts.
Slender is the “story” of two friends, one sister, and a dude, attempting to make a documentary about the Slenderman. Yeah, that’s the plot. Oh boy…let’s just get this over with. Our director is a man by the name of Joel Petrie who’s directing an upcoming Romeo and Juliet film and everything else is short films. Slender stars Joel Petrie as Joel, Dan Schovaers as Dan, Mili Parks as Mili, Jyllian Petrie ad Jyllian, and Ryan Templeman as Ryan. Noticing a theme here? Alright let’s get into it and get this over with.
If I had a choice to pick a found-footage movie, or a movie that’s…not found footage, I normally would go with the latter. I’m not a huge fan of found footage films. Every one that I’ve seen has always made me ask the question “why is this being filmed?”. Often times there is just forced tension, exposition poking out all over the place, forget about a score, impossible to judge cinematography, and cardboard cut-out characters. Almost all of them seem to possess the same principles. Thanks to Paranormal Activity, found-footage horror movies are all over the place. It makes sense, they cost nothing to make and if marketed right can reign in some serious cash. And it’s not that I hate the genre as a whole, there are a few found-footage movies that I like. Chronicle isn’t necessarily a horror movie, but I enjoy it. The Blair Witch Project also isn’t an amazing film, but I think it’s fun. It’s just there isn’t a film that really stands out to me from this genre. But nothing fuels my mild discomfort toward found-footage than seeing a movie that’s bad. And I can honestly say Slender is one of the worst found-footage films I’ve seen, if not the worst. And that’s saying a lot because I’ve watched Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension in its entirety, and that was terrible. But at least it stayed somewhat consistent to building a story (or continuing one). Slender can’t even do that.
Slender likes to jump around a timeline a lot, really for no reason at all making it very hard to follow. Usually when a film is told non-chronologically, the scenes all mesh together like it was meant to be told out of order. Kill Bill does a great job at this. Each scene leads into the next one, even if it’s a few weeks or months before that event took place. It’s just good editing, storytelling, and filmmaking. Crap, freakin Memento tells its story backwards, there’s a reason for it to be that way. But Slender tells it’s story out of order just for the sake of being out of order. There’s no reason for it. And it becomes frustrating trying to follow along because the title card that shows the date of the scene is in the bottom left-hand corner. You have to be actively searching for it, otherwise you will miss it and be so very confused because the movie is not told chronologically. But not to worry, once it gets about halfway through the movie they quit that nonsense. Consistency out the freakin window.
So how about that story? I wish I could tell you about it. Nothing here feels like a narrative. It just feels like a big heap of exposition being shoved in our faces. Literally every scene is just spilling exposition because “we have to explain Slenderman to those who don’t know the legend”. Come on, the Slenderman legend is not a hard myth to tell. It’s just some creature dressed as a man with a suit, who’s really tall and possesses mainly children and stalks you once you’ve heard the name. That’s one scene’s worth of exposition. You can’t tell a story off of that unless you’re going for a character driven movie. Which this “film” is not!
Speaking of characters, there are none here either. You may argue “then how do they movie without characters” to which I reply “That’s a good question, I don’t know, but they tried” …there are no real characters here. There is nothing here. No arcs, no development. Everyone just feels like words on a page. The only one that maybe, MAYBE has something to him (which is pushing it) is Joel Petrie’s character. But the problem is, his actions become so unbelievable that it’s hard to understand his character. Especially towards the climax of the film (we’ll get there, I have things to say). But Joel isn’t the only one at fault here either. Because no one else knows how to act. It’s hard to put into words how bad Slender really is. It takes skill to make a film this broken.
The movie opens with Joel trying out his new camera. And somehow they screw that up! It goes from “this is a cool camera” to “that guy is flirting with that girl” to “lets film him” to the manager of the bar being all like “I’m gonna fire you, Dan” to “what is our film gonna be about?”. I wish I was joking when I said this, but, for the next 30 minutes the film literally SEARCHES for its “story”. How do you even do that? No really, how? There’s a difference between getting the characters into the story (like a good film would) and making it up as you go. I sincerely believe that Slender was made up on the spot and was added to as they went along.
Usually in found-footage movies, the more we find out about the story of the film, the more the tension grows. Or at least, that’s what is supposed to happen. Slender tries…I think? But the story doesn’t even get started until we are already 30 minutes in. By then the story should have been set up and we should have been presented with a conflict to propel the plot. But Slender is special. We don’t need “personal conflicts” or a “traditional 3-act structure” (except we are utilizing the 3-act structure) because it’s all about the adventure of the story. But it doesn’t even know how to do that right! After the worst first act ever, we start seeing these filmed interviews with two folks who have allegedly seen the Slenderman. Just a few problems with this. Who are these people, I’ve never seen them before (and we never see the again). Why are they in this movie? What purpose are they serving? And why does this scene even exist? This is just information that is explained to us later on…twice! This scene only exists to make the film longer. And to make matters worse, they don’t even know how to cut it right. There are so many dang jump cuts so a slightly zoomed-out shot of the one before it. There is a thing called the 30-degree rule. Maybe they could only borrow these people for a couple of hours over the weekend they filmed this so they couldn’t do reshoots.
Oh yeah there is a woman, forget her name… I really just don’t care, but her kids were taken by the Slenderman and Dan finds her on the train acting all crazy and asks if they could talk about it. And at one point in the movie the main characters go over to her house for an interview about it. Plot device, I know. But at least she comes into play in the climax. You see for the climax, Joel thinks it would be a fantastic idea to go into the Elementary School where the boys were kidnapped and do some snooping to…find some evidence I think? Anyways, Joel then is all like “guys I’ve got it. Let’s make the documentary about FEAR!!” so…this is a good one, get this, so they call the crazy woman and tell her they found some information about her sons, right? Except it’s just a ploy because actually Ryan is going to dress as Slenderman and scare the woman when she comes down the stairs. It’ll get good footage! It’ll be perfect. There’s no other way…My only question is why? Why in the freaking world would you do that? Everyone else is like “I’m not 100% on board…for the record…but I’ll still do it”. That’s not something you do to a woman whose kids went missing! What are you going to gain out of this? But you see they get their comeuppance because they all…get trapped and die in the Elementary school…I wish I was making this up. The ending to Slender is just so absurd and ridiculous, I don’t even know how those involved thought this was a good idea?
But, now it’s my turn, Joel Petrie. You have no idea how frustrating it is to talk about Slender. There’s nothing to talk about. Slender is, what I would call, a hollow disaster. But I mean, what did you expect to gain from making a film about Slenderman anyways? The film has nothing for its audience to care about, but somehow, at the same time, manages to screw up everything else. The characters are wrong if you can even call them characters, the story is incomprehensible, whatever story there is, the plot is stupid…if one even exists, the screenplay is non-existent. And to make matters worse, Slender was released in 2016. The craze of Slenderman is like 2008 news. How did you miss that? Why not release the film during the height of the Slenderman obsession instead of 8 years after it’s passed? Seriously, I genuinely want to know how you missed the Slenderman craze. It’s not like it took you any time to make this movie anyways. But, to make matters EVEN WORSE, the Slenderman himself doesn’t even show up in the movie Slender…it’s all just implications. How th-HOW DO YOU EVEN DO THAT?! I don’t know if I can even call this a movie. It takes the simplest and cheapest form of making one, found-footage, and does absolutely nothing with it…there’s nothing special about Slender. I can make a film by myself with my iPhone and it’ll be more comprehensible than…whatever Slender is trying to be. There is no reason to exist, it didn’t even release at the right time for it to be considered relevant. It wastes it time searching for a story when there’s never been a story about the Slenderman in the first place. How do you expect to make a movie, or anything for that matter, when there’s nothing there to begin with? There’s a reason why the Slenderman craze faded out. Probably the same reason why it took a day and a half to make Slender. Because there’s nothing there than just a silly myth. There is nothing in Slender, which is honestly an achievement. It takes talent to make a film so empty, well done. You have to TRY to make a film this unnecessary and irrelevant. There is nothing here for the audience to learn from, no overall message, no central theme, hardly characters to learn from. Slender was made merely for entertainment’s sake. This isn’t good film-making, it’s hardly filmmaking in general. Slender is broken, broken beyond repair. It’s incomprehensible and empty. Nothing connects, or even makes an attempt at connecting. Just talking thinking about Slender is frustrating in itself. 1/10, the lowest rating I can shovel out. Lowest of the lowest of recommends. Don’t see this movie, see something that’s actually worth your time.