Slender Man was primed to become the next horror icon. Birthed out of a paranormal photo contest on the Something Awful forum, the Creepypasta character is one of the few that had the potential to penetrate through general audiences and enter into pop culture.
The character already started to gain awareness following reports that violent acts were being committed in his name, including a much-publicized story of two 12-year-old girls in Wisconsin who lured a friend into the woods and nearly fatally stabbed her.
This is where Sony Screen Gems comes in. Back in 2016, they tapped David Birke (Gacy, 13 sins) to pen a screenplay based on the character. It would be the first “official” adaptation that was to birth a horror icon that could live among the greats, Freddy, Jason, Chucky, Michael, Leatherface, etc. They then made a cool director choice in Sylvain White, who helmed the absolutely phenomenal Stomp the Yard for Sony back in 2007, which led to the excellent Losers in 2010 and the critically acclaimed French thriller The Mark of The Angels in 2013. He more recently had been directing a lot of TV, including episodes of “Sleepy Hollow”, “The Following”, “Person of Interest”, “Lethal Weapons” and “The Americans”. The icing on the cake was the addition of up-and-comer Joey King, who broke out in James Wan’s The Conjuring.
This should have been a good movie, or at the very least better than what was released in theaters this past weekend. Wait, you didn’t know it actually came out? Well, that’s because Screen Gems didn’t get behind it, which started with some public drama over the release strategy a few months ago. Leading up to the release, Bloody Disgusting was able to obtain two stills, a poster, a featurette, and two trailers. That’s the bare minimum in my 17 years of experience. So, what happened?
We did some digging Friday night and found out some crazy information. Slender Man, as released in theaters, is not a complete movie. What does that even mean, you ask? Let’s start at the beginning. While originally the producers developed a much darker take on the character, we’re told that Screen Gems’ mandate was that it should be PG-13. Before you flip out, this is not a problem; the target was and always has been for teenagers. Birke’s screenplay was reworked by the studio as they went into production. Flash forward to the aforementioned public spat, where producers attempted to shop the film to other distributors. While it’s unclear the exact nature of the story, our insiders tell us that Sony/Screen Gems were succumbing to fear — fear of backlash that started when the father of the girl who stabbed her classmate called it “distasteful.” While this is absolutely ridiculous, 2018 isn’t exactly the year of reason, and the studio was scared into back peddling their horror film. Our sources confirm that several major scenes from the film were completely removed by the studio leading up to this past weekend’s release. Slender Man, as presented to audiences, isn’t a complete film; many of the striking scenes that were teased in the first trailer, like one of the characters stabbing her eyes out, or another ripping her tongue out after encountering Slender Man in the woods, are completely missing from the film.
Would these sequences have made the film better? We may never know, but unless the box office offers up some insane surprise (it’s currently performing okay domestically), Slender Man is as good as dead. What should have become this generations horror icon, has been reduced to a paint-by-numbers spook that could be forgotten by Monday.