Forget the boogeyman of your childhood – it’s the Slenderman who’s now causing some very real horrors. Beware The Slenderman is HBO’s latest true crime documentary to make its way to television. Irene Taylor Brodsky’s documentary will tell the story of the horrific 2014 stabbing of a 12-year old girl by two other girls. An internet phenomenon – the tall, pale figure known as the Slenderman – had apparently influenced the girls into perpetrating the crime.
Beware The Slenderman follows in the footsteps of HBO’s The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst. The trend of true crime documentaries has also been paved by the likes of Netflix’s Making A Murderer. But what makes this documentary stand out is its modern relevance, especially with regards to internet culture.
Starting out as an internet meme, the Slenderman gained viral popularity through the game Slender. In the game, players assume the role of a character wandering through a forest (and in later editions, other locations like a sanatorium) avoiding the Slenderman. The Slenderman is recognizable not only by his height (up to 14 feet tall, in some versions), but by his black suit and lack of a face.
But as the sensation of the Slenderman grew, with ‘facts’ and urban legends about him growing greater, so too did his apparent influence. In 2014, Morgan Geyser and Anissa Weier from Wisonsin discovered the Slender Man online and believed he was real. According to Newsweek, they then became enamored with the idea of becoming his ‘proxies’, which could only be done by murdering someone. Obsessed with the idea, they stabbed their friend during a sleepover, in the middle of the night.
Their victim would survive the stabbing. But Geyser and Weier would go on to make headlines for the nature and motivations of their horrific act.
As Oregon Live reports, Beware The Slenderman is successful in sharing a story without creating any deliberate judgments. Viewers will instantly recognize the clash of internet culture with reality, the manner in which kids might be influenced. But filmmaker Brodsky doesn’t simply dump the blame on that and seeks to dig even deeper. Questions are at play here, questions that involve mental illness, the potential power of suggestion, and the darkest sides of the internet.
The film restrains on narration. Instead, it focuses on interviews of Geyser and Weier’s families, footage from police interrogations, and court proceedings. This allows the viewer to come up with their own conclusion about the incident, and everything tangent to it.
Beware The Slenderman premieres Monday, Jan. 23.