Memes nowadays have a short lifespan. They’ll spend a few weeks in the spotlight, evolve, live for a few more weeks and then die. A few lucky ones get to live on in various forms — like the ever-popular “It’s Free Real Estate,” for example — but most disappear to some unknown internet graveyard after their time is up.
However, there is always a chance for revival, something “Slender Man” is trying to do with the old creepypasta legend of the same name. The producers, though, aren’t trying to resuscitate an old meme as much as bring back all the terror associated with it.
The original Slender Man was an online sensation in its heyday that led to art, stories, short films and video games. Unfortunately, the horror figure — who lurks in the woods, waiting to attack passersby — also inspired a vicious attack by two 12-year-olds against a classmate in 2014.
And, for the last few years, the meme has all but disappeared. The reach of Slender Man’s fame used to extend to all kinds of internet communities, but, nowadays, the lanky monster is just a memory on the horizon. For a meme so long dead, creating a movie feels like a gamble.
The outcome of the “Slender Man” movie could go one of two ways: The film could revive the horror of the old meme and succeed, or it could fail because of Slender Man’s reputation as a childish story past its prime.
The film could very likely succeed; people used to love Slender Man, and there’s always a market for scary B movies. If director Sylvain White is able to bring “Slender Man” to the level of fear induced by the original urban legend, then the film has a great chance of bringing in audiences.
Plus, people are likely to want to revisit the story of Slender Man, because it was so popular all over the internet. Young adults who were impressionable teenagers when the meme reached its zenith could want to relive the kind of terror that the creepypasta legend used to create.
But there is a lot that will be pushing against the success of “Slender Man.” For starters, it’s a really well-known meme. Maybe, in 2012, people were more likely to believe that the woodland creep was real — something like a cryptid in the vein of Bigfoot or Mothman — but these days, people aren’t worried about Slender Man hiding amongst the trees. After all these years, Slender Man has lost its power as a possible, albeit irrational reality for young internet surfers.
This could end badly for the creators of “Slender Man,” because there’s no real mystery to the movie. Viewers might not care to revisit the meme that they know is a meme, even in horror film format. It’s old, and it’s been done before; I mentioned before the video games and short films. In a world of remakes and sequels, sometimes horror fans are looking for something a little fresher.
But controversy also surrounds the movie, which is another factor that could make sales plummet. The father of one of the 12-year-old attackers from 2014 is outraged over what he considers the insensitivity of capitalizing on the story. After all, the children involved in the 2014 case were three girls, two of which stabbed the third in the woods. The first trailer for “Slender Man” depicts four high school girls, and one of them stabs herself in class. Surely, for the families involved in the real life trauma, the similarities seem tasteless.
With a fatal combination of aged meme and real life horror, things don’t look too great for “Slender Man.” The film doesn’t have any big stars either, except for the up-and-coming Joey King, who plays one of the main girls. Even production company Sony is wary of the movie’s possible failure, which has led the film to tentatively court other production studios as potential suitors.
It’s possible that enough time has passed for “Slender Man” to distance itself from the creepypasta meme. For younger viewers who didn’t experience Slender Man’s internet fame, the movie could be something awesome, but, for others, the film will just feel like beating a dead horse.
Still, nostalgia could play a factor in sales; people are always looking to revisit their childhoods, and “Slender Man” could bring in lots of old fans for that purpose.
But, even despite the side effects of Slender Man’s old meme heritage, the movie doesn’t seem like anything special. Based on the trailers, it just looks like another teen horror film with a monster. Monster chases girls, and girls lose their minds or die.
In the end, the story could be too basic for movie format. After all, the terror of Slender Man was that he was mysterious, that he lurked in the woods and that no one really knew what he would do to you. Also, he’s scary tall and faceless, so that helps. But that doesn’t leave a lot for a movie plot, and it seems like “Slender Man” isn’t trying to delve into any new territory.
The movie premieres on Aug. 10 — that is, unless the producers really do find another company, in which case release could be delayed. The movie will probably give some kids a real scare, but it doesn’t seem like any kind of big-name horror film to get excited about.
With the outcome of “Slender Man” still up in the air, it’s just a waiting game to see whether or not nostalgia will beat out boredom with Slender Man’s story.