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Review - Beware the Slenderman

By midlandsmovies, Mar 21 2017 12:02PM

Beware the Slender Man (2017) Dir. Irene Taylor Brodsky

Irene Taylor Brodsky tackles the extremely difficult subject of two young girls who attempted to murder their friend after engaging in an online urban myth known as the Slender Man.

A fictional ‘pied-piper’ tale for the digital age, the Slender Man is an imagined creation that has developed through online media, made-by and consumed by people of all ages using videos, message boards and chat rooms.

Using digital media itself, the documentary cleverly uses Skype calls with some major interviewers to showcase the ‘normality’ of web based communication in our modern lives. What wasn’t normal were two 12-year old girls who had a schism from reality, taking this bogeyman as face-value truth and going further than any parent considered possible.

The parents themselves are interviewed and one mother explains her daughter’s detachment from emotion and empathy in a way that echoed the fictional “We Need to Talk About Kevin” movie. In addition she explains her regret about giving her offspring an iPad where her solitary world was magnified by her consumption of inappropriate online material. The father pleads he “couldn’t have done any more” to monitor his daughter’s online activity and after stealing a knife from the family kitchen, the two girls headed to the woods to appease the Slender Man.

The documentary therefore asks how this could have happened. It investigates meme theory – how images and ideas get replicated across society – and in this instance, the director ropes in Richard Dawkins to explain the term he invented and how it appliesto the online world. Replication of ideas are both created and consumed simultaneously and the home-grown nature of the myth seemed to draw attraction from younger viewers.

The film also cleverly shows YouTube videos from one of the young girl’s history of watched films alongside loving home-videos of the girls playing music and having fun as any child would at that age.

Some have accused the documentary of blaming the online material itself or targeting ‘YouTube’ but if anything it highlights the need for close observation of young people and the media they consume. As the world changes its viewing habits, older parents may have not changed with them and the warning, if any, is that the possible outcomes could be devastating.

CCTV footage of the girls being interviewed by the police could be interpreted as inappropriate but what we are shown are two girls who, post-crime, have little comprehension of the wrongdoing they just committed. As two lives are thrown away, the documentary ultimately illustrates the extreme aftermath posed by the dangers of the internet for young impressionable minds.


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