By Kurt Jensen
NEW YORK (CNS) — The plot of “Slender Man” (Screen Gems) is concisely summed up when Wren (Joey King), one of the creature’s victims, screams, “He gets in your head like a computer virus!”
Yeah, that’s his entire reason for being, in fact. There’s not a whole lot else to this horror movie based on the tall, faceless character in a dark suit introduced by his creator, Eric Knudsen, on the internet in 2009.
There are hints of murderous mayhem, but mostly the character, who famously hangs out in the woods and lures children, so his legend goes, to a soul-snatching doom, is vested in psychological horror
He silently glides through bedrooms, a library and a hospital, and might also have gone into a song and dance and scored a touchdown had this film had the budget for more than his tentacle-like fingers and a lot of creepy noises. Slender Man here is also a social media predator with immaculate texting skills.
In a small Massachusetts town, four teen girls, Katie (Annalise Basso), Hallie (Julia Goldani Telles), Chloe (Jaz Sinclair) and Wren, out of nothing more than bored curiosity, “summon” the Slender Man video on a laptop one night. The fast-moving and random occult images and a glimpse of the creature (Javier Botet) have them instantly under his spell, and he spends the rest of the film getting into their heads to stay.
Even though Katie is the only one to do any research on the character, the girls and some additional high school cohorts are too brainless and gullible and without parental supervision to evince much sympathy. Of moral discernment there is none.
Additionally, director Sylvain White and screenwriter David Birke seem to have been oblivious to the recent attempted murder case in Wisconsin, when two unstable preteen girls stabbed a classmate because they thought it would impress Slender Man.
What’s left here is a disturbing, clueless mash-up ghost story with a fuzzy “warning” about being careful about who you encounter online — a message made more eloquently, and effectively, by hundreds of other sources.
The film contains an occult theme, a reference to a sexual act and fleeting crude language and profanities. The Catholic News Service classification is A-II — adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 — parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.
Jensen is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.