The popular horror movie, Slender Man, is rated PG-13 and follows a group of teen girls after they summon a tall and skinny internet creature. Like many modern-day horror films, the movie leans on the internet and computers and screens as portals for unspeakable horrors, following in the footsteps of The Ring, Paranormal Activity, Unfriended, and more. What’s different here is that Slender Man’s origins are distinctly born out of internet culture. The titular creature is basically a meme. And although memes are basically harmless, Slender Man (and his place in popular culture) is particularly fraught. So should parents let their kids see this movie? Here are the essential facts.
Slender Man isn’t a real “myth.” He was born out of an internet forum in a photoshop contest
In 2009, an online forum called Something Awful held a photoshop contest in which users of the site created “paranormal” images. A user created the Slender Man — a tall, faceless man, who had tentacles that grew out of his back. The fake paranormal being quickly gained a somewhat-joking following; internet users wrote fan fiction based on the Slender Man, and more people continued to draw him, and add to his mythos. His powers include causing amnesia, coughing, and paranoid behavior. He stalks kids. He hides in forests. He’s an amalgamation of many creepy paranormal figures, but he was born distinctly from the corners of the internet. For the most part, this was innocent, creepy fun, although the Slender Man’s photoshop contest origins became obscured with time. Which made some people believe he might be real.
His supposed existence led to a very real, and frightening tragedy
In 2014, two 12-year-old girls, Anissa Weier and Morgan Geyser, had a sleepover with another 12-year-old girl named Payton Leutner. They had recently come across the Slender Man meme and believed him to be real. They took Peyton out to the woods with the intention of killing her to curry favor with the mythical paranormal being and ended up stabbing their friend 19 times. They then left her in the woods to die — she only survived by crawling out to the road where a cyclist found her. In the aftermath of the attempted murder, Weier and Geyser have been forcibly placed in mental hospitals, Weier for 25 years to life and Geyser for 40 to life. They were tried as adults for the crime.
Real-life tragedy aside, the movie is not getting great reviews
The movie has only been out for a few days and Rotten Tomatoes has given it a 9 percent Tomatometer rating based on critical reviews. (Thought 25 perecent of the audience liked it.) The New York Times all but eviscerated it; calling it boring and crass. Boring is a really bad way to describe a horror movie, especially one that comes with a lot of baggage.
Movie theaters in and surrounding the area of the attack refuse to show the movie in theatres
Because of the real-world context surrounding Slender Man, movie theatres in the Wisconsin area (where the attack on Leutner occurred) declined to screen the movie. The theatres released a statement stating that showing the film would be disrespectful to the victims and the families who were involved in and related to the stabbings. After all, those victims are still living in the Wisconsin area — and the victim of the stabbings still has to live with the attempt on her life at the hands of two girls she thought were her friends.
Given all that, is Slender Man okay for teens?
The movie is only rated PG-13, meaning that some mature tweens could go see the movie. But the question is: do parents want their kids to see this movie? Given the fact that there were real-life, potentially fatal implications to a made-up paranormal figure, maybe not. Given that two impressionable tween girls started to believe in this figure, enough to ruin their lives and the lives of others over it, maybe not. And, given the fact that critics are calling the film straight up boring — a tough feat considering its complicated origins — it may be best to hold onto that $20.00 for the next teen-friendly, no-strings-attached, scary movie.