The internet myth is given a dull big screen treatment in this routine teen horror exercise

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The internet myth of a tall, well-dressed, faceless figure who preys on children's minds is the basis for "Slender Man," a lifeless, scare-free teen horror offering that is unclear about its own folklore.   

Four high school friends, bored one night, decide to conjure the Slender Man, the same way in previous generations they would have said "Candyman" or "Bloody Murder" three times into a mirror. 

Summoning Slender Man involves watching a short video on the web and waiting for the toll of three bells. Afterward, Slender Man — a lanky figure in a suit who lives in the woods and sometimes has tree branches for arms — infects their minds, causing them to harm themselves or go missing.

Why? How? Good questions, neither of which are answered, much as Slender Man's motivations or the reality of his existence are never clear in this murkily shot, routine exercise in would-be scares. 

The real Slender Man myth is an invention of the web, traced back to online forums where a user added a faceless figure into old photos and blamed him for the disappearance of children. From there, the internet took over and built its own web of Slender Man stories, and the legend took a dark, real-world turn in 2014 when a pair of Wisconsin girls stabbed a friend, blaming Slender Man for the inspiration. 

"Slender Man" doesn't touch on that story, it's purely a work of fiction, but it never puts a stake in the ground and decides what to make of the figure at its center. The friends ("The Kissing Booth's" Joey King among them) are interchangeable, and director Sylvain White ("Stomp the Yard") employs quick-cut techniques from 1990s music videos and blaring soundtrack cues when trying to produce scares.

It doesn't add up to much more than a shoulder shrug. Perhaps that's one way to kill off Slender Man: make his story so dull that no one cares. 

agraham@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2284

@grahamorama

'Slender Man'

GRADE: D+

Rated PG-13 for disturbing images, sequences of terror, thematic elements and language including some crude sexual references

Running time: 91 minutes

 

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