There are a lot of things parents have to worry about these days. Are my kids spending too much time online? Is my daughter becoming a psychopath? Is my son going to be snatched by a mythical character that looks like an emaciated Benedict Cumberbatch in a suit? These parental concerns are what Irene Taylor Brodsky’s Beware The Slenderman attempts to address.
The film centres itself around the brutal stabbing of a young girl in rural Wisconsin. The perpetrators are two twelve-year old girls who attacked their friend, believing that Slenderman, everyone’s favourite Internet bogeyman, would then accept them into his exclusive club.
Beware The Slenderman checked all the boxes of your standard documentary, but it managed to do it in an elegant and palatable manner.
The cut away material was effective, greatly adding to the visual description of events surrounding the stabbing. This material included police interviews, scratchy Slenderman style animations and classic landscape shots of rural Wisconsin. My personal favourite piece of this visual stimulus was a well-executed screen-capture-style animation, which scrolls through one of the young criminal’s Youtube viewing histories. The scene chopped between videos with titles such as ‘Bunny Eating Raspberries!’ and ‘Am I a Psychopath Test’. The dichotomy between these videos efficiently and competently underpins the insanity of the situation explored by the film.
In addition to this, Beware The Slender Man does not treat its audience as unaware troglodytes: it assumes that viewers have previous knowledge of the Internet and other related content. This characteristic is of merit and is an element that some contemporary documentaries tend to fall apart on, based mainly on the inherent need of directors to present the entirety of information they have at hand.
On the downside Beware The Slenderman is laced with anti technology undertones, which depending on your personal view is justifiable, based on the context of the film, but in my opinion detracted from the narrative. Another negative is the sheer length of the documentary: often dragging in parts it made it difficult to maintain a consistent connection to the events.
All in all Beware The Slenderman performed well, and I would highly suggest watching it to gain a deeper insight into the events surrounding the Slenderman stabbings.
By David van Veldhuisen
This review is a part of SWINE Magazine’s Melbourne International Film Festival coverage.