The above trailer is from the documentary Beware the Slenderman.
Slenderman, also spelled Slender Man, is arguably one of the most frightening of modern urban legends. As the legend goes, Slenderman appears as a tall, thin-limbed human with a ghostly-white, featureless face. His arms are exceptionally long and are sometimes described and depicted as multiple tentacles. It is said that he can reach far distances with his tentacle arms to grab victims.
While he is just as scary to adults, according to Play With Death, his preferred victims are children under the age of 16. Some versions of the legend tell of him abducting children who are never seen from again. Other versions say that he eats the children. Similarly, some stories account that he charms children who then wander off with him willingly, while others profess that he takes them by force. At least one version of the Slender Man story claims that he persuades others to kill for him. Despite the variations in the myth, the only thing that we truly know about Slender Man is that he is not real.
— Aman Tayal (@_aman_tayal) November 11, 2016
According to What Culture, Slender Man originated on the internet forum SomethingAwful as an entry in a Photoshop contest. Eric Knudsen, using the pseudonym Victor Surge, submitted two black and white photographs of children, with Slenderman photoshopped into the background, to the competition. The photos had captions referring to “The Slender Man,” but the backstory of the character was very limited. However, that did not stop the internet from taking the idea and creating a real monster from it.
— Jack Morrissey (@Jack_Morrissey) May 8, 2016
From those two original doctored pictures sprang an urban legend that took on a life of its own. Slenderman has seen treatment in many forms. Internet horror fiction, movies, video games, Creepypastas, and mockumentaries have been created based on the Slenderman character.
Now, HBO is planning to release an actual documentary related to the spooky legend, and it looks creepy. However, it is not disturbing because of its discussion of the internet boogeyman. It is unsettling because it focuses on a real-life incident that happened in 2014.
The documentary is called Beware the Slenderman, and its focus is not so much in the myth itself, but on a brutal attack that happened in Waukesha, Wisconsin.
In May 2014, Morgan E. Geyser and Anissa E. Weier lured Payton Leutner into the woods and stabbed her 19 times with a 5-inch kitchen knife. All three of the girls were 12-years-old at the time. Leutner was able to crawl from the woods after being left for dead and was discovered by a cyclist who called 911.
— H. Nelson Goodson (@hng2wiusa) August 10, 2015
According to the Journal Sentinel, Payton “was rushed to a hospital, where she was in stable condition, but fighting for her life.”
Leutner did survive the attack.
Geyser and Weier had been planning the murder for months and were charged with attempted first-degree intentional homicide. A lower court ruled that the girls be tried as adults because of the severity of the crime and the premeditation. Council for the girls appealed the recommendation, but according to Fox 6 Now, in July of this year, the Second District Appeals Court upheld the lower court’s ruling. The decision came just months after a Waukesha County judge denied a request to reduce bail in the case to $5,000 last April.
The judge determined that “the risk of flight is high and the crime is grave — adding that a $500,000 bail is appropriate.”
If convicted, the girls could each face up to 65 years in prison. Their attornies appear to be setting up insanity defenses for the youths. Geyser’s lawyer described Morgan’s psychosis as “extreme.”
What does all of this have to do with the Slender Man? The Journal Sentinel reported that Weier told police that they were carrying out the act to show dedication to Slender Man and prove that he existed.
ALL EIGHT SLENDER NOTES pic.twitter.com/fcrwnYgpod
— Mage of Doom (@WhispRose) July 14, 2015
“Weier told police that Slender Man is the ‘leader’ of Creepypasta, and in the hierarchy of that world, one must kill to show dedication. Weier said that Geyser told her they should become ‘proxies’ of Slender Man — a paranormal figure known for his ability to create tendrils from his fingers and back — and kill their friend to prove themselves worthy of him. Weier said she was surprised by Geyser’s suggestion, but also excited to prove skeptics wrong and show that Slender Man really did exist.”
The story is bizarre considering that Creepypastas like the Slenderman legend would usually terrify pre-teen girls. Viewing some footage from the video game Slender: The Arrival (below) is enough to give a grown man nightmares. So, how two 12-year-old girls came to worship the character enough to kill for it, is both creepy and morbidly fascinating, which is why HBO has agreed to distribute the film.
Warning: This video contains scary imagery and adult language.
Beware the Slenderman is a Taylor Brodsky documentary that was shown at the South by Southwest Film Festival in early 2016. HBO Documentary Films has picked up the film and agreed to distribute it through its online streaming services, HBO Now and HBO Go.
According to Cinema Blend, “Critical response to the doc has been largely positive, with many lauding the way it forces viewers to put a lot more consideration into how often they and their kids are tapped into online and virtual behavior.”
The trailer for the film indicates that while it will primarily focus on the Slender Man stabbing, it will also explain some of the lore, even providing on-screen depictions of the creature. HBO will begin streaming Beware the Slenderman on Tuesday, January 17, 2017.
Remember, if you happen to encounter Slenderman, “Don’t look, or it takes you.”
[Featured Image by HBODocs]