By Rob Howell
Lambda Film Critic
If anyone had told me that the scariest movie monster of 2010 would be a scrawny dude in a suit I’d have laughed at them. Now, a year later I’m pretty sure that if I ever run into a thin dude wearing Armani in an alley, one of us won’t be making it out of their alive. What’s caused this sudden phobia of Buddy Holly look a likes, why its the greatest thing in modern horror, The Slenderman.
The Slenderman originally began its life as a viral joke on somethingawul.com, existing first as a picture entry in a paranormal art competition, and then spawning a mythos all around itself. The basis of all slenderman stories are built around the existence of the eponymous monster. It’s a tall, gangly faceless thing in a suit that has a habit of standing outside of children’s windows. Now the basis here’s pretty slim since so far all we’ve got is a well dressed pedophile, the real horror magic is in the motivation, or in this case the viewers inability to comprehend it. This is something that modern horror has really forgotten is truly horrifying, when you strip down many of the more disturbing horror movie monsters there’s something about them that the average viewer just can’t understand, for Michael Myers it was anti-social personality disorder, for Jason it was the mind of a mentally disabled child being placed in the body of sociopathic lumberjack, and for the thing and the xenomorph it was just the sheer alien factor that made them incomprehensible. The slenderman combines the best of both of these, it’s much more humanoid then the older alien creatures being nothing more then a really tall man with no facial features, and an almost human curiosity, always appearing on the fringes of scenes just watching, but the humanity ends their as it’s still some horrific being thats alien thought process leads the viewer to be terrified since in the end you can never know why its doing what it’s doing.
Something original that the slenderman brings though is an obvious lack of any kind of physical presence or danger. Though sometimes depicted with tentacles, usually the slenderman just seems harmless, standing around sometimes with his arms out like he wants a hug. This is where the story gets vicious though, unlike the monsters I spoke of earlier who all brought some kind of weapon to the table (knives, machetes, teeth) the slenderman just wrecks the victims heads, with the punishment for just looking at him costing the unsuspecting viewer a portion of their mind and sanity. It adds to the overall creepiness of the character, while also making him a bit more settling for the viewer since we’re looking at him just as much as the victim.
Now for the last year several independent groups have all created their own ongoing horror films in the form of Altered Reality Games(ARG’S) on youtube and twitter. This brings the amazing horror story right into your home, while also helping cover up the budget issues that each group suffers from. Though now there are at least six of these short series, three have really caught my eye, Marble Hornets, Everyman Hybrid, and Tribe Twelve(each of which you’ll find a mini review of at the end of the article). These small time youtube directors are showing a lot of skill when it comes to modern horror, and I wouldn’t be surprised if at least one team finds themselves writing for the big screen one day.
Also for those interested in foreign independent horror movies, french director Pascal Laugier is making his attempt at entering the slender mythos with The Tall Man set for release later this year. The movie stars Jessica Biel as a mother attempting to protect her child from the tall man, an obvious copy of the current internet monstrosity. This may be the big guys chance at horror history, but from recent trailers it seems that the story may be lost in adaptation.
Marble Hornets is the originator of the Slenderman genre, premiering in late June 2009 with the enigmatic “Entry #1”. Each video is submitted by the character Jay, a young man concerned about the disappearence of his friend Alex. While viewing tapes Alex made on set of his student film Marble Hornets, Jay notices strange issues in video tearing, sound quality and the existance of a strange creature standing in the background. From their Jay begins to fall into a spiraling story of non-euclidian physics, horror and paranoia as Jay tries to learn just what happened to his friend, while dealing the the memory loss caused by seeing the Slenderman, as well as cryptic threats posted on his youtube channel by the mysterous Totheark. Marble Hornets is an terrifying story that can be viewed all at once or over a period of time, it’s most recent video, Totheark’s “Fragments” being more uncomortable in 18 seconds then that Saw franchise pulled of in five movies.
Marble Hornets youtube channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/MarbleHornets
Totheark youtube channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/totheark
Marble Hornets twitter: http://twitter.com/marblehornets
Unlike Hornets, Everyman Hybrid starts out very slow and then once it picks up never slows down. It’s based around the idea of a group of friends spoofing the Slenderman series in their youtube nutrition channel, until one day their little background puppet is replaced by the real deal. Hybrid makes great use of social networking in their series, with viewers being able to subscribe to twitter updates that help during the stories down time. The main issue here though is that unlike Hornets which is directed by a pair of film students Hybrid is a collaboration between friends with the acting being a little weak at times, as well as the writing suffering when they try to add in new ideas on the fly, or when they expect the viewers to suspend their disbelief just that bit to far. The stories currently in a lull, with updates being few and far between, but for new viewers there is a large enough backlog that they should be back on track once you catch up.
Everyman Hybrid Twitter: http://twitter.com/everymanhybrid
Everyman Hybrid Youtube channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/EverymanHYBRID
Finally Tribetwelve is the story of Noah, a young man trying to find out why his cousin Milo killed himself. Noahs, probably got the strongest digital editing skills of the three with his Slenderman being shown several times with moving tentacles and great on screen effect when the camera begins filming the slenderman. Despite being pretty though, Noahs series suffers a lot, either due to the director being busy and not updating, or Noahs inability to act (his tension killing “I DON’T KNOW WHY I’M COVERED IN BLOOD!” being my personal favourite moment). Slenderman fans should give him a look, but if you find that your not enjoying the acting early on you may want to jump ship back to Marble Hornets, as it’s all down hill from there.
Tribe Twelve twitter http://www.youtube.com/user/TribeTwelve
Tribe twelve Twitter firstname.lastname@example.org