The Slender Man Movie: from Photoshop Contest Entry to Horror Film

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(Credit: Rolling Stone)

 

The internet phenomena known as Slender Man first appeared sometime in 2009 on the Something Awful forums, created by user Eric Knudsen. Originally submitted as a part of a Photoshop contest, the character was created taking inspiration from the works of writers such as H. P. Lovecraft and Stephen King. The original image (below) depicts a group of children running towards the camera, mostly looking frightened, confused, or even angry. Behind them stands a tall, obscured figure, seemingly with no face, with his arms outstretched. The image included a quote, written by Knudsen, meant to read like an account from a supposed witness of the entity.

We didn’t want to go, we didn’t want to kill them, but its persistent silence and outstretched arms horrified and comforted us at the same time…

— 1983, photographer unknown, presumed dead.
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(Credit: Creepypasta Wiki)
Though Knudsen himself has had very little to do with the character since it’s conception, Slender Man started to spread like wildfire throughout all reaches of the internet. Now keep in mind, this was before creepypastas were as big as they are now. Now we have Channel Zero, an entire TV anthology series dedicated to various internet horror stories. However it can be argued that the main reason these stories gained traction was because of Slender Man. Following the image was a barrage of various other followups created by fans worldwide. Including more images, written stories, Youtube series’, and video games. In less than a decade, Knudsen’s creation went from an entry in a Photoshop contest to somewhat of a modern horror icon. And that’s interesting to think about. For many children and teenagers out there, Slender Man may be as iconic to them as characters like Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees are for others. While Slender Man may not have the hit film series that they have, his games and multiple Youtube stories are what tightened his grip on the youth of Generation Z.
Still, Hollywood wouldn’t be Hollywood if they didn’t at least TRY to make as much money as they can from the craze. Though the hype for Slender Man has died down since 2013-2014, a big budget horror film may be just what the character needs to instill fear into audiences worldwide yet again. Enter Screen Gems, a division of Sony Pictures that has had mixed success over the years. Recent releases from them include Carrie (2013), Don’t Breathe (2016), and most notably the Resident Evil series. Love those movies or hate them, what makes this more unique than past Slender Man films is that this is no longer just a small studio adapting the character. Screen Gems has had quite a bit of experience in the world of horror, and seeing them tackle a character like Slender Man, which is usually done on a very low-budget, will be interesting.
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A screencap from the Marble Hornets Youtube series

The studio began developing the film back in May of 2016, with David Birke penning the screenplay. Birke is a mostly unknown screenwriter, but his most recent credits include Elle (2016) and 13 Sins (2014). Both films were positively received by both audiences and critics, and having seen Elle myself, I can say that I’m actually optimistic when it comes to the story for this film. Elle does an excellent job with not only it’s performances and tackling of sensitive issues, but it’s ambiance and psychological terror are what get me excited to see what Birke comes up with for this film. As for the director, the studio has opted to go with Sylvain White, who, when you look at his filmography, seems to be an odd yet seemingly safe choice. Sylvain’s most notable feature would probably be The Losers (2010), starring such actors like Zoe Saldana and Chris Evans. While that film didn’t receive critical praise, it wasn’t scathing either. Thus it’s hard to get an idea of what he will do with Birke’s screenplay, and how he will handle the surprisingly complicated Slender Man mythos.

Another positive that can be said of the the film’s production is the cast. Our main characters include actresses Joey King (The Conjuring), Annalise Basso (Oculus), Jaz Sinlair (When the Bough Breaks), and Julia Goldani Telles (The Affair). While none of these actresses have hit a high-level of notoriety quite yet, what does bode well is that three of them have already dabbled in the horror genre. And hopefully, if all turns out well, Slender Man will be the perfect film to put these ladies in the spotlight, much like IT did for it’s own young and unknown cast. Speaking of IT, one of the more exciting aspects of this movie’s cast is that Javier Botet (IT, Mama, The Conjuring 2) has been cast as the Slender Man himself! Botet, who has the potential to become a modern day Boris Karloff, wrapped filming in July of this year. While I’m not a fan of every movie he’s in, I can absolutely say that his creature acting always stands out as one of the best parts. His long, skeletal figure makes him the perfect choice to play Slender Man, and will no doubt leave a lasting presence no matter how long he stays on screen.

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(Credit: The Stranger)
As of now however, that’s about it! Despite filming wrapping up in July, we still know nothing regarding the plot for the film. While we shouldn’t expect anything too groundbreaking, hopefully White and Birke bring a story that manages to separate itself from the slew of jump-scare horror films we’ve been receiving for the last decade or so. If Slender Man can be more like movies such as IT (2017), and less like movies such as Blair Witch (2016), I think we can expect the original hype for the character to come back in a big way. While we won’t know for sure until next Spring, for now, it’s exciting to speculate.
Slender Man releases May 18th, 2018
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Author: Cody O'Brien

@DeetchTweets I'm a freelance writer and director in the Chicago area. In my ten years of experience I've written multi-genre screenplays, short stories, stageplays, as well as articles on pop culture, film critique, and more.

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