Beware the Slenderman

NOTE: If there is a movie, documentary, play, or book you’d like me to review please let me know. For a while I reviewed television shows but I’m way behind on all of the shows of mine I like, so I will wait to catch up on those before I seek new ones.

As several of my friends know, I tend to find unexplained mysteries, disappearances without explanation, unsolved murders, and serial killers fascinating. I just find it so interesting given modern technology how people are able to escape detection from security cameras and can get killed or go missing without anyone knowing. It also is interesting to me what goes through the mind of a criminal that allows them to commit crimes or murder(s).

One of my best friends last week told me that she had recorded a new HBO documentary called _beware the slenderman, and I was immediately intrigued by it. Being from Wisconsin, I had heard about the case when it first happened, but I hadn’t followed up on it much until fairly recently. The movie explains the crime the girls committed and describes what the home life was like for both of the girls.

In 2014 Morgan Geyser and Anissa Weier, two twelve year old girls stabbed and nearly murdered Payton (Bella) Leutner in Waukesha, Wisconsin. I emphasized “nearly”, because myself and most other people I have talked to had assumed Bella died from her injuries. The two claimed their actions were done to appease the fictional character Slenderman. He is an unusually tall man with a thin build, who is always seen wearing a suit, and he  generally has a blank, expressionless face. Apparently, he has “proxies” that work for him and seem to do his bidding. Both girl claimed that they were told they had to kill Bella or Slenderman would kill their family, and after killing her, they could go to the Slenderman Mansion and become said proxies. Due to the developing backstory of the character, not much more information was provided about the fictional character. However, while most people associate a malicious or creepy tone to him, some people (presumably both girls) see him as a “Guardian Angel” of sorts.

Editing is always vital for the success of a film and the way the audience perceives the actions of the people or characters in it. For example, in December 2015 when Making a Murderer was released, it helped sway a lot of people into believing that Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey were wrongfully sentenced for crimes they may or may not have committed (see my review Making a Murderer to get a deeper analysis of what I thought). When I researched the documentary at a later point, I noticed other sources saying that the documentary left out some information that would make the two men not seem as innocent as how they were portrayed. While I have no clue how accurate these claims are, it does show how important editing is in driving a narrative and what the audience will take away. In regards to the editing of _beware the slenderman, the message was great but the flow of the film could have greatly improved. As I’ve already explained, most crime documentaries or shows have an agenda of clearing someone’s name or tarnishing it further. This movie  balanced both their roles in the crime without making one seem guiltier than the other, and the interviews with each of their families also gave interesting insight to how both girls behaved throughout their earlier childhood too. It just presented what happened without really trying to sway the viewer one way or the other.However, the flow of the film could have significantly improved. It seemed jumbled and out of order. It is understandable to want to build suspense and not give out all of the information immediately, but it felt like it jumped around a lot and was hard to follow at times.

A bit of levity came during the middle of the film when my friend and I laughed at the job description given to one of the people being interviewed. By his preference, or that of the editors of the film, he was referred to as a “Digital Folklorist”. The term folklore is often meant to describe traditions and beliefs passed down from generation to generation, but more importantly it has been associated with oral tradition. Hence, adding the “digital” in front of it seems counterintuitive. While many fabricated stories have gained notoriety (such as Slenderman), the digital age is a more recent phenomenon, and it has hardly passed anything down through generations, if any at all. The necessity of such a position is not needed at this point. I by no means have room to talk, because I am blog for fun (and free), but I would never adopt such a ludicrous title to describe myself. Anyway, that man and the latter half of the movie touched on the ever increasing influence of electronics and the importance they have in the everyday lives of most people. The father of Anissa felt had he not given his daughter a tablet she may not have gone down the path she had. His younger son is being mandated to use one in schools and the increasing necessity and reliance on technology worries him. At times it seemed like the film focused on technology almost as much as the crimes, without ever really acknowledging that it is doing so.

Despite all of the imagery surrounding Slenderman, I felt the creeper element of the movie was the videotaped confessions of both girls during their interviews. The way they responded to several questions just sent a chill down my spine. At one point Morgan mentioned how the girls didn’t kill Bella at the sleepover they were all at, because she wanted to give Bella one more morning, to see if the feeling to murder her would subside. Throughout, both girls phrased and said things in such a disturbing manner, that was emphasized by their young age at the time. After seeing the footage, the denial of their appeal (to be tried as children instead of adult, because of their age) seemed like the right decision. I do think it is unfortunate that children at such a young age may face a significant amount of time behind bars, but given their confessions, it is obvious the entire ordeal was premeditated with intent to kill, and once Bella was stabbed, she was left their to die. They were quite aware of their actions and there was no psychotic break. While I feel they deserve to be reprimanded for their actions, I do hope they are also able to receive guidance and therapy and Morgan will learn how to understand her schizophrenia and live with it.

I definitely think this movie is a great choice for anyone interested in crime related entertainment. Perhaps it is due to my close proximity to the crimes, but I felt engaged the entire time. While the pacing could have been improved, I felt like the overall product was well constructed and I would give it an 8 out of 10. It will definitely be interesting to see the story unfold and see whether a follow up will ever be produced.