Inspired by a desire to impress a mythological, faceless, internet ghoul known as Slenderman, two twelve year old girls from Waukesha, Wisconsin stabbed one of their best friends nearly to death. The victim survived, and when taken into police custody, the young girls said they felt they had to kill their friend or else their families would be in great danger. It’s a horrific crime that’s hard to wrap one’s head around, but what was the real reason for why these two seemingly normal pre-teens would come to believe a made up boogeyman was real?
The ultimate answer contained within Irene Taylor Brodysky’s punishingly overlong and obvious true crime picture Beware the Slenderman is an easy one to come to, but the filmmaker takes her sweet time getting there. An underwhelming rehash of things people already knew about the case mixed with lengthy looks at popular culture and explanations of how memes work, Brodsky’s film comes to life mainly thanks to insightful interviews with the parents of the imprisoned kids.
There’s far too much filler here, and a lot of it only creates a sensationalistic, surface level view of the case and its facts, barely making it any better than an equivalent episode of a Dateline mystery. Plenty of theories are all floated and quickly jettisoned in the final third, which revolves around an explanation so easy that the first 100 minutes of the film feel utterly redundant once the reveal comes.
Within that framework there are sparks of interesting interviews with experts here and there, but when Brodsky stops her film’s momentum to explain and rehash The Pied Piper of Hamelin, or play the death of Bambi’s mom to underline how one of the killers seemed to lack empathy, it’s no longer a case of stylistic choices marring a film.