This review was originally published as part of my coverage of Hot Docs 2016
A horrible crime is influenced an online urban legend in Beware the Slenderman. On May 31, 2014, two 12 year old girls stabbed their friend in the woods near Waukesha, Wisconsin. When questioned about their motives for the crime, the girls say that they were trying to please the Slenderman, a faceless boogeyman, who is the subject of countless “creepypasta” online horror stories. Due to the horrible nature of this crime, the prosecution is pushing for the girls to be tried as adults, which could result in them facing 65 years in prison.
Beware the Slenderman is a quite creepy true-crime story of how real life horror can be influenced by online horror. The first Slenderman story was posted online in June 2009 and the character has quickly evolved to cult-like status, with there being countless stories, fan art, YouTube videos, and even video games about the Slenderman appearing online. However, even though such horror stories can be fun to tell around the virtual campfire, what happens when the stories are believed by a susceptible child, who can’t tell the difference between reality and fiction?
While watching Beware the Slenderman, it is easy to find parallels between this film and Paradise Lost, both in terms of subject matter and the way the film is shot, complete with helicopter shots. The film delves equally into both the Slenderman mythology and the stabbing case itself, with the film featuring some very chilling videos of the two girls’ police interrogation. Probably more tragic than the crime is the fact that these two girls influenced by the Slenderman mythology have now found themselves part of the legend itself.