Saturday, January 13, 2018

The Trouble with Slender Man

Sony Picture's trailer for Slender Man (below) was released this week and it while seems to be purposefully obtuse, it's still very creepy. Unfortunately, the origin story behind this supernatural creature with a featureless face that hunts children is quite tragic and may ultimately taint its success.

It started on the now-called "literary site" Creepypasta, where visitors share their scary stories, photos and even videos. It's a true time sink for those who love scary stuff. Slender Man appeared in 2009 and slowly became a phenomenon. This generation devoid of a Michael Myers, Freddy Krueger or Jason Vorhees, finally had their very own boogieman. (I've always thought Slender Man to be a mix of "The Gentlemen" from the 1999's Buffy The Vampire Slayer, and Cthulhu, the elder god with tentacles, from HP Lovecraft's work.)

Yet none of it is real. Right? In 2014, two 12-year-old girls stabbed a classmate in an attempt to appease the Slender Man who they believed was stalking them and their families. Thankfully, the victim survived but it brought a renewed concern about minors on the internet and the inherent problem of discerning fact from fiction (fake news anyone?).

HBO Films released a disturbing documentary called Beware the Slenderman last year about the events and aftermath of the girl's crime, revealing that the one who orchestrated the attack was diagnosed with childhood onset schizophrenia. In the subsequent 2017 court cases, both attackers who were tried as adults, cited mental disease or defect, and have been hospitalized, one receiving a 25-year sentence to a mental institution.

On the heels of the trailer's release, the father of one of the attackers quickly voiced his opposition to the movie citing a distasteful move on the studio's part to cash in on the tragedy and thus extending the pain of the three families involved. It's a valid point and the cry across the internet is unanimous: too soon. As fascinating as Slender Man is as a property, it's inexorably tied to a real and tragic event that only came to a resolution last fall and reeks of opportunism.

Backlash like a recent online petition to shut down Creepypasta may be working as the site seems to be inaccessible (although their Facebook page and app are still running). I disagree that this one site is the cause of all children's peril on the internet but mobs do like a good scapegoat. The movie is scheduled for release in May 2018 which might end up being postponed if the backlash continues to escalate.

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