Beware the Slenderman
In this horrifyingly modern fairytale lurks an online Boogeyman and two 12-year-old girls who would kill for him. The entrance to the internet quickly leads to its darkest basement. How responsible are our children for what they find there?
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★★★★ review by Russell Holley on Letterboxd
The time spent with the dismayed parents of the girls involved makes this well-rounded combination of a true-crime story and an analysis of an internet folktale, a real riveting watch.
★★★★ review by Nathan Rabin on Letterboxd
★★★½ review by Gazelle Garcia on Letterboxd
The most enthralling documentaries are the ones we can identify with. Now, I hope anyone reading this isn't prone to killing in the name of the Flying Spaghetti Monster or even the beloved Companion Cube (who died for our sins). Without a doubt, we are the viral generation. I witnessed and participated in the budding Slenderman legend, just as some may have grown up listening to Marilyn Manson and idolizing The Joker. And while we moved past those fixations like the fads their intended to be this is the true story of two young girls who were willing to kill their best friend because of their obsession with an Internet sensation.
I was very familiar with Slenderman during the run of Marble Hornets on YouTube around 2009, but had grown beyond it before the popular PC game was created. So how fascinating it was, and horrifying, to see the fictional creature's name in headlines years later attached to the stabbing of a child. This documentary delivers a well balanced look at the tragedy from the perspective of the parents who never suspected that this Jack Skellington looking character decorating their 12-year-old's room was worth any worry. This film goes back and forth between the court hearings, the lives of the families, and the history of the Creepypasta legend. With sources ranging from psychologists to majors of viral folklore to the creator of KnowYourMeme, Beware the Slenderman provides an interesting look into the dangerous impact of modern culture sensations.
★★★★½ review by Jason Alley on Letterboxd
A deeply troubling, disturbing, and unbearably sad documentary about the two 12-year-old girls who attempted to murder another little girl in the Wisconsin woods in 2014, as an offering to Slenderman. For those who don't know, Slenderman is an internet-born modern-day boogeyman who began life as a Photoshop gag, popping up eerily in the backgrounds of photos, and through the suggestive strength of the internet and the imaginations of children, morphed into something very "real."
This HBO documentary explores both the murder case and the Slenderman phenomenon itself, in detail. It's tough to watch at times, but fascinating and very worthwhile.
★★★½ review by C.G. Runyon on Letterboxd
I put this on because I, too, was a teenager on the internet with a fascination with Slenderman and that entire mythos.
Turns out, this doc kinda sucks as an examination of the effect of internet myths and memes, featuring interviews with lame adults attempting to "explain" the Slenderman's strange power in a Vox-splainer kind of style and absolutely none of them properly convey what makes it a resonant image (apart from the thuddingly obvious). Just lame adults who don't get what the kids are into these days--and yes, one of them is Richard Dawkins (ugh).
Thankfully, that's not the documentary's primary interest. When it focuses on the families of each of the girls who committed the stabbing, it's harrowing and sad and even heartbreaking. Brodsky knows exactly how to lens the minutiae of everyday life as these parents cope with the insurmountable trauma of knowing what their child was capable of. The effects of internet memes on impressionable young minds are obvious, but the damage it can inflict on ordinary people has rarely been so devastatingly documented.
The final few shots of this are genuinely pretty haunting.
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