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.


Why I Do What I Do

Warning: A LOT of rambling.

First off, this isn’t my typical type of review. Usually, I will talk about something I’ve seen lately, but I decided to make a personal post instead. I’ve had people from several different countries reading this, and plenty of Americans too, but not a lot of you probably know me. Even those who do know me, might not know some of what I’m about to say. So, here you go.

Currently I am working on a production of Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead at a community theatre in town. If someone would have told me two years after I graduated I would still be at home, living in this small town (granted, it is the third largest in the state, but it still seems small to me) I probably would’ve told them off and said I would be somewhere else doing “bigger and better things”. However, as I’ve been working on this play, it has given me a lot of time to reflect back on my life up until this point.

The title for this post is “Why I Do What I Do” and it is tied into the play I am working on, so I guess I’ll start there. Dog Sees God focuses on a combination of different elements from fear, rejection, love, loss, bullying and identity (among many other topics). The character I am is a teenage version of Schroeder from the Peanuts in this unlicensed parody of the comic strip. He’s an upperclassmen who has faced years of bullying due to being molested by his father several years before the beginning of the play. I am fortunate enough to have never gone through an experience like that, but the bullying is something that resonated deeply with me.

At some point when I was a child, I honestly don’t know when or why, I started getting picked on and bullied. Maybe due to being so naive when I was younger, I never realized the hurtful intent of the people that I was around. One instance I recall from when I was in elementary school was that I was playing with some other kids and they asked if I was gay, and my response was “of course I am! I’m having fun!”. When I was younger, I didn’t realize gay was a term also used to describe homosexual, nor did I realize it was meant to be an insult in that situation. As I started growing up, I slowly began to understand more of the intentions behind the things people said to me, and as the bullying continued, I began to catch on to it more and more. I was lucky enough to have it mostly just be verbal, but the few times it was physical, the harm was never anything too serious.

A lot of the time what I see in fictionalized bullying, more often than not, is that the person being bullied tends to be more isolated or reserved with no friends. This wasn’t really my case growing up (note: I am not trying to discredit anyone who has been bullied in real life and didn’t have any friends, I am just speaking from my experience). I always had a tight knit group of friends. Some were also bullied like I was, but other friends were more popular. One of my biggest issues was that transitioning between each school, I lost a good chunk of my friends but the bullies tended to follow me.

For me, everything changed once I started doing theatre in high school. When I was a freshman, I signed up to be in the drama club, but for some reason I never went. Forward two years, and when they were looking for people to work in the haunted house, I was recruited by a few friends, and from that point on I decided to stick with the club. I had tried a few other clubs over my high school career, but nothing kept me motivated like drama club.

Over the course of my junior year, I ended up discovering a lot about who I was, and I went from being bullied to having a lot of friends and even a bunch of underclassmen who looked up to me. By the end of the year, I had made such an impact that I was even nominated for president (I ended up as treasurer, which was a pain, but that is another story). Surrounding myself with people who cared about me helped so much.

That year made me realize two things: I want to be there for people who need it and being creative is what I want to do for the rest of my life.

Do I like everyone that I meet? Hell no. However, I try not to limit myself to the first impression of someone. I have found a lot of friends, especially in college, where we got off on the wrong foot or I felt annoyed by them, but when we actually sat down and got to know each other, I realized how amazing of a person they were. I discovered that the hand that was held out for me when I joined drama club in high school, is the exact same thing everyone else needs every now and then. Sure, some people can make friends with anyone. I’ve been told I am that type of person, but as you can tell from reading this, that wasn’t always the case. I just understand that everyone needs a friend and I am willing to be that friend. Even if we end up losing touch or rarely see each other, I made a lot of strong connections with people over the years that won’t ever completely fade away. Have I met people that I have lost as friends or people that don’t like me/can’t stand me? You betcha. However, that’s life.

The other rewarding thing about theatre was that it gave me an outlet to discover who I was, but it also allowed me to be creative. Trust me, as a child I would come up with some of the most imaginative ideas, and I am grateful that I never lost that. I’ve certainly reigned it in over the years, but that flame of creativity has never completely blown out.

I act. I design. I write. I draw. Am I the best at any of these things? Probably not. Do I care? Absolutely not. I do what I do because I find it fun and it makes me happy. My acting has made leaps and bounds since Claudius’s man-at-arms role in high school (fun fact: Hamlet is the first show I was ever in and I’ve worked on three different productions of it). I’ve even made significant strides since college. I’ve learned to be more grounded and I’ve been working on slowing down my rate.

I started writing this blog because I wanted a way to keep myself writing. I have a folder dedicated to all of my deceased ideas and projects that I gave up on. I love to write but can never keep a story going, so to help prevent me from getting rusty with my writing, I decided to maintain a blog I would edit a few times during the week. Little did I realize, this project would also help me to continue writing a book that I’ve been working on for a few months. I hope to have it finished by years end.

The reason I wrote all of this is because I’ve noticed a lot of people being down on themselves lately. Personally, I think I have made a tremendous journey the twenty something years I have been alive. I continue to grow and discover more of who I am and what I want. I didn’t write this as a need for an apology or sympathy for the rough patches I’ve been through. I just want to show everyone, tough things (including many things I didn’t add about my life) do happen and it may feel like the pain and suffering will never end, but always remember you are not alone. To anyone who reads through all of this, know that if you ever need someone to talk to, I am here for you. Old friend, new friend, someone really close or a complete stranger, it doesn’t matter. When you look back on your life (now or decades later) you will see how far you have come. All the good things and all the bad things have helped shape you into the person you are, and never forget how strong that person is. We define ourselves, nothing or no one else.