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.

The Slap

A few days ago I asked friends on Facebook to recommend things for me to watch to review on here, and if the rest of the list is like the television show I just watched, I am going to be excited for what I’ll be viewing the next couple of weeks. My friend Lynnette was one of the first to suggest something and she recommended The Slap, a miniseries that aired on NBC earlier this year. The show is an American version of the Australian show of the same name that was produced back in 2011 and both are based off the same book, also titled The Slap, which was written in 2008. The show is divided into eight episodes and follows eight different individuals connected through the main event that happened in the first episode.

The show begins with a man by the name of Hector. He is about to turn 40 and his entire family is invited to his house, along with friends of the family, the baby sitter, and her best friend. While at the party, everyone starts drinking and having a good time, and all of the young kids gather to play baseball. When an unruly child, Hugo, gets upset after striking out, he begins swinging a bat erratically and doesn’t want his turn to be over. Harry comes over to take the bat away “to protect his son (Rocco)”, who is also playing. After Harry takes the bat from Hugo, Hugo kicks him several times in the shin and Harry slaps the boy in the face. Everyone gets into a frenzy because of what happens and the next seven episodes revolve around the aftermath of the slap.

Personally, I loved the set up of the show. While the primarily plot focuses on all of the characters dealing with the repercussions of the slap, each episode delves into the lives of the eight different characters featured in their respective episodes. Nearly everyone has some type of demon and inner turmoil that they are dealing with, and it is interesting to see how much those elements tie into the main plot of the show and what extraneous things influence the psyches of the characters. On top of that, the pending possibility of a trial, brings to light a lot of dark things.

Two of my favorite episodes were “Anouk” and “Ritchie”. The episode “Anouk” features the character trying to figure out her relationships with her lover and her mother. Both individuals in her life are somewhat opposite of one another, because her lover seems somewhat more clingy and idealistic, whereas her mother seems more aloof and rational. In the short episode all of the characters go on a journey to discover what they mean to one another, and when Anouk discovers why her mother has been distant (even more so than usual), the revelation and subsequent scene between her mother and her is emotional and provides great dimension to the show. Although it doesn’t focus heavily on the slap issue (because she is only a friend of the family), it still is one of the best of the eight. Another great episode is the exciting conclusion of the series with the final episode, “Ritchie”. This episode does not focus as heavily on the character it is named after, but a great deal of information is provided about him, and while some of the news did not come as a surprise (the way he portrayed the character and the way his character was written was predictable), other stuff was still startling to learn. Without spoiling the ending or any surprises, the element I loved was that it showed how people can become so obsessed with a certain objective that they will stop at nothing to achieve victory, and they do not care who they have to hurt to reach it.

Not all of the episodes were quite as enticing as these two episodes. While every episode did successfully move along the story line revolving around the slap, there were a few that fell short in making the audience discover more about the character focused on that episode. Both “Manolis” and “Aisha” fell into this category. Those two episodes had touching moments, and the latter continued on elements from the “Hector” episode, but neither quite encompassed the life and tribulations of their respective characters as much as the other episodes. With a story, not every character is meant to be sympathetic or relatable, but compared to the lives discussed in the six other episodes, these two stuck out as episodes more concerned on pushing the slap story arc further along.

Another issue that I, and other critics noticed, was how stereotypical each of the characters were. Plenty of storytelling elements have been copied, revamped, or innovated over the years, because the same stories are bound to be repeated again, but the series did not seem to try escaping stereotypes. If you can think of a stereotype of a character, it is more than likely featured on this show. Angry, masculine male: check. Infidelity: check. Wild child seeking attention in all of the wrong places: check. Matriarch of the family not liking her son’s wife: check. Not having read the story the show is based on, I am not certain whether this was a flaw of the source material or the screen adaptation, but luckily most of the performers in the show brought life to each of the characters that they play and didn’t leave them to be one dimensional.

Who doesn’t love a good ensemble show? It is quite easy to accomplish when each of the episodes is focused on a different character, but part of the greatness of the ensemble of this show arose from none of the characters outshining anyone else. On some shows there are actors or actresses that demand the screen and draw all of the focus, but most of the people on this show were at the same consistent level as one another. A few characters may have been a bit dimmer and not as highlighted as the others, but they still were close to the same caliber as the others. As well, I love seeing individuals showing their versatility, and that is one of the reasons I love Zachary Quinto on this show.  He has gone from villain to gay best friend to serial killer to a baby crazed father, and now takes on a brutish, overly masculine father. He flows easily into all of these different roles that he plays. When it comes to the acting/characters of the youngest families members, I was not huge on how little the children were focused on. It makes sense that Hugo, the teens and the adults are the primary focus, but the rest of the children on the show could have provided another side of the story by how the incident affected them. Of course, their lack of perspective could represent how it did not really affect them as much as it did for the adults.

It is interesting to see how much each different individual was affected by the situation, but it also shows how obsessed and how ridiculous that obsession is. I think The Slap is a quick watch that is a lot more emotional than it appears it would be for an eight episode run time. Despite using too many stereotypes, the show does make a great comment on society and how selfish people can be in pursuit of proving that their say is better than others. I give this show an 8 out of 10, one for each episode (just kidding, I just thought the show was that good and the eight is a happy coincidence). Underneath the selfishness and stereotypes, the great performances of the actors does draw the viewer in and will keep them entertained until the very end.

Suggestions 4/8/2015

Hello everyone!

I am looking for suggestions of new television shows, movies, and documentaries to watch. I do have a list of documentaries I want to start on that were already recommend, but I am still open for more suggestions. When it comes to television I want shows that either have fairly short episodes that I can binge watch fast or a series that only has a handful of seasons. Due to work and rehearsals, I don’t want to take on a five season or more show, because I don’t want to dedicate all of my free time to watching a show. With movies, I am not the biggest fan of gore and horror, but I will still watch them. I have a massive collection of DVDs, but I’m always looking for something else new to watch. It tends to be easier to just watch something on my laptop than using a DVD player.

Mainly, I want to write about things people want to read about. Whether it is good, bad, or somewhere in between, I would love suggestions on things to watch. Maybe I’ll love your favorite show or maybe I’ll hate it, we’ll see. Either leave a comment on this blog post or on either of the other social media platforms this posts on and I will try to get to it as quickly as I can.

Coming up soon I will write about: Playground (documentary) and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (television show).

Here is an updated list based on suggestions:
Playground
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
The Slap
King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters
Boy Meets Girl
Garfunkel and Oates
Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead
Vikings
Lily Hammer
Gravity Falls
Peep Show

Suggestions

Leave a comment on this page of something you would like me to review. I am open to suggestions of movies, documentaries, plays, and television shows.

Movies: I am open to any genre and I would mainly prefer things in English.

Documentaries: Prefer stand alone documentaries and not documentary series.

Plays: I will review shows I see, but not anything I work on or in a location I do shows at.

Television: I will review some series, but I will only do it by season or as a whole (depending on when I see it). When recommending show, I am looking for suggestions that are only a few seasons in and not shows that have six or more seasons.

Otherwise, let the suggestions come, I’d love to broaden what I see.