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Director: Irene Taylor Brodsky
The documentary Beware: The Slenderman is an evocative entry to this year’s ‘incredibly strange’ section of the New Zealand International Film Festival, it offers a telling journey of the danger of the web, mental illness, and murder.
Using a style similar to that of The Blair Witch Project, director Irene Taylor Brodsky introduces us to the coveted internet meme the Slenderman in a chilling and chaotic chase through the woods. There is a pervading sense that we are being watched. Cutting to news footage from May 31, 2014, we learn that that two pre-teen girls, Morgan Geyser and Anissa Weier, are found guilty of stabbing their ‘best friend’ in these woods in an attempt to “please the Slenderman.”
If you’re not already familiar with the Slenderman meme, it depicts a tall, faceless, and scary as sh*t figure who is believed to hide in shadows and prey on young children. Originating from the horror story sharing webpage Creepypasta Wiki, the Slenderman meme emerged as a result of a photoshopping competition in which competitors had to make the unimaginable look ‘real’. Add this to the instantaneous information sharing capabilities of the web and you’ve got yourself one epic internet generated version of Chinese Whispers. The foundation for a series of distorted, creepy, and sometimes-dangerous stories that sadly led to the stabbing of a 12-year-old girl.
The documentary follows the Geyser and Weier families in the aftermath of this horrifying event, whilst tastefully weaving in the Slenderman’s origins (interestingly from the folklore tale of the Pied Piper), the families’ histories with mental illnesses, and the ubiquitousness and power of the internet. Although I didn’t find this a gripping watch, I thought it addressed some of the negative aspects of the digital age in an unsettling and thoughtful way. I expect the Creepypasta Wiki page will gain a few more hits from this.