Beware the Slenderman is an HBO documentary that follows the true story of two girls who attempted to kill their friend for the sake of the internet-created myth of Slenderman. Using actual footage from the case and interviews with the families, psychiatrists, sociologists, and internet meme experts, this documentary details the creation and viral spread of the Slenderman mythos and its real life affects, particularly as it pertains to these two girls.
Horror documentaries are actually a fairly common occurrence. However, we haven't reviewed many for various reasons (cinematic film reviews tend to get in the way). But this film was a good opportunity to catch a horror documentary while it's still fresh. Approaching a horror documentary, or at least one based solely in reality, is a unique challenge because they aren't traditionally scary, and tend to be more unsettling than anything else, as the case was here.
By far the most intriguing and disturbing element of the film was the real-life exploration of the two girls who stabbed and attempted to kill one of their friends in the name of Slenderman. As we hear parts of the trial, some testimonies, and recorded sessions of the interrogations of the two girls, we are thrown into a terrifying reality in which two middle school girls were capable of murder. One a then-undiagnosed schizophrenic and the other an incredibly impressionable outcast, we see the influence of a fictional being as if it were a real and manipulative entity through the words of these two girls.
The film, thankfully, doesn't appear to purposefully have an agenda for swaying the viewer in the direction of the bad influence of the internet. The evidence is delivered with a neutral perspective. This is an uncommon position in most documentaries I've seen, so it was quite refreshing here.
Despite the fascinating storytelling of the case, the rest of the documentary struggled to maintain the horror vibe without cheap Slenderman clips spliced throughout. Of course, showing Slenderman as he is depicted by the masses is an important quality to have in a film such as this, but there were times where his presence felt forced because there was nothing to occupy the screen for our voice over interview. Also, there was an unusually large number of onscreen cats...One of the cameramen clearly had a thing for the family's cats...
The documentary aroused curiosity in the parallels of perception and our own spread of fictional horror as some concept of reality. It traded this for any cheap attempt to make Slenderman actually scary, for the most part. It focused on how humanity can create and then become a victim to their very own horrors. And in this way, if you think about it too long, it is equally thought-provoking and terrifying.