In 2009, the horror fiction website Creepypasta helped create one of the more popular modern boogey men of horror. While many people expected the newest boogeyman would be born on film or television, aptly enough he was born on the internet. Much to the surprise of everyone, the Slenderman (an enigmatic fictional monster whose ability to lure children in to the woods and collect them for nefarious purposes) became much more than a simple meme. He was a pop culture sensation, and out of him spread a cult of loyal fanatics. One of the most infamous cases involved the incident of two twelve year old girls who lured their best friend out in to the woods and attempted to stab her to death as a means of appeasing the slenderman.
The easy route to in this case would be to blame the internet or to blame creepypasta, or to even blame the popularity of horror. Thankfully “Beware the Slenderman” isn’t an exploitative and manipulative look at the infamous case that points fingers and lectures. It instead presents a look at all the sides of this horrific event and offers up a stark, depressing, and compelling look at the horrendous nature of mental illness and the influence pop culture has over the masses. What’s most disturbing about “Beware the Slenderman” is not the horrific crime that ensued is that that would be murderers Morgan Geyser and Anissa Weier came from very normal and absolutely unassuming households. Upon further interviews with the parents of both school mates, “Beware the Slenderman” takes us deep in to their household to learn that their parents were all well meaning, attentive, caring, and blue collar individuals.
When we meet them, they’re all still very shell shocked by the concept of their daughters committing such a horrendous crime. Even the father of Anissa Weier keeps her pet cat and maintains the condition of her room on the prospect of her being able to return home. Director Irene Taylor Brodsky once again tackles the issues from all corners, examining the remarkable phenomenon of Slenderman and how it’s been elevated beyond a simple character on the internet. She even touches bases with multiple educated and informed individuals, all of whom try to pinpoint why Slenderman has tapped in to a base that many fictional characters haven’t. “Beware the Slenderman” chronicles the days leading up to the sentencing of both teenagers before a court of law, talking with the parents of both girls who offer up their own insight.
They also deliver pleas of forgiveness and understanding as to how their daughters could emerge as attempted killers without their knowledge. The interviews with Morgan’s mother are especially vexing as she describes, in detail, the seemingly mundane events leading up to the attempted murder. This is intercut with a psychologist explaining in gruesome detail to the court how the pair perpetrated their plan, and the violent aftermath that ensued. The court and lawyers are all especially careful about sensationalizing the case and turning both girls in to martyrs for a legion of followers. They don’t permit photography in the first court sessions, and even have prevented both individuals from ever meeting or speaking with their families and friends.
“Beware the Slenderman” isn’t an easy movie with easy answers. It props up difficult questions and confusing situations, and instead asks us to watch the aftermath of it all, from the long term effects of the crime, the response of folks within the inner circle of both girls’ families, and yes, the disturbing transformation of Morgan and Anissa in to cult figures on the internet.