In an exclusive from Comicbook.com, The Sony subsidiary Screen Gems has announced that they are currently partnering with Mythology Entertainment to develop a film based off of the internet creepypasta called Slender Man. The scripted by David Birke (13 SINS, DAHMER, GACY) has already been completed and the studio is seeking to begin production in Fall of 2016 in time for a 2017 release date.
For the uninitiated, a “Creepypasta” is essentially an internet horror stories, passed around on forums and other sites to disturb and frighten readers. The name “Creepypasta” comes from the word “copypasta”, an internet slang term for a block of text that gets copied and pasted over and over again from website to website. Slender Man, originally created in a Something Awful forum contest in 2009 to make everyday photographs look supernatural, has taken on a proverbial life of his own. In the original contest, Eric Knudsen, posting as “Victor Surge” posted two photos of children with an unnaturally tall, thin man behind them wearing a black suit. According to the lore that Knudsen established, Slender Man would abducted children and influenced people to commit terrible acts. As other forum members began adding to the lore, the character was quickly cemented as one of the most terrifying internet urban legends, whose story has inspired short films, video games, and other pop culture references. Despite the online collaborative nature of the character’s lore, the character itself is not in the public domain, and the rights were recently sold to Screen Gems for this upcoming adaptation.
The news of the film doesn’t come as that big of a surprise given Screen Gems’ previous forays into the horror genre. As the same studio that produced THE MOTHMAN PROPHECIES, BOOGEYMAN, THE EXORCISM OF EMILY ROSE, HOSTEL, and the action-horror franchises of RESIDENT EVIL and UNDERWORLD, the upcoming Slender Man will be the latest in a long line of notable horror films (as the overall quality of those films is up for debate depending on who you ask, and will undoubtedly vary depending on your taste in horror). What does come as a surprise is the announcement of this film comes just shy of two months after the announcement of the upcoming HBO Documentary BEWARE THE SLENDERMAN, which premiered at the SXSW film festival back in March. The documentary focuses on the true life story of two 12-year old girls stabbing their classmate 19 times after luring her into the woods in the summer of 2014. The two claimed that they had attempted to murder their friend as a blood sacrifice to appease the fictional internet character. Due to this claim, the attack in Waukesha, WI has come to be known as “the Slender Man stabbing” over the past year, and has become the subject of a great deal of controversy. The documentary is directed by the Academy Award nominated Irene Taylor Brodsky, who received exclusive access to the families during an 18 month period to create the documentary. An excerpt from Indiewire describes the documentary:
Brodsky uses the (fictional) disturbing figure to explore not only the effect that Internet lore has on real-life actions, but also how the digital age is saturating the imagination and actions of children. The director reportedly got exclusive access to the families of both girls charged with the crime, and her documentary will likely stir up fierce debate (and perhaps even a touch more terror).
Though the HBO release date has yet to be announced, one can’t help but wonder how this upcoming account of a real life horrific event will affect Screen Gems’ upcoming project. As with THE MOTHMAN PROPHECIES, the studio has delved into the realm of horror stories “based on true events,” but unlike the supernatural sensationalism that the Mothman stories bring, the story of what happened to that young girl is all too real, and should not be made light of. Given the nature of the crime, the documentary will most likely strike up the age old debate of “Does the media cause violence?” in the search for answers as to why this terrible tragedy happened. As such, I have a hard time imagining the studio drawing from this real life story, and I imagine that Birke’s screenplay instead focused more on the character’s online lore that fans know and love for inspiration. We won’t know until more details are released, but in the meantime, I’m finding it difficult to deal with the cognitive dissonance now associated with this character. Though I personally don’t believe the notion that violent media causes violent actions, there is something remarkably unsettling about life allegedly imitating art, rather than the numerous films that display the reverse (often in a way that vastly removes audiences from actual events).
As a fan of scary stories, I loved seeing a new horror icon emerge from the internet of all places. Watching this internet urban legend evolve was like seeing a character from a scary campfire story leap out of your imagination and become as well recognized as Freddy Krueger, Jason Voorhees, and the like. It was fun seeing the influence this character had in the overall horror genre, reading internet stories, listening to fictional podcasts like The Black Tapes draw inspiration from the lore, and watching gamers scream in terror at the jump scares from the fanmade online games was all thoroughly entertaining; and it was especially cool to see the impressive artwork this character inspired. However, in the wake of this tragedy, it’s hard for me to take enjoyment in these things anymore. Even if the perpetrators were only using it as a scapegoat, or even knowing that they would have fixated on anything that would have lead them down this path, it doesn’t change the fact that something I truly enjoyed has been tainted. How can I take pleasure in something that has allegedly caused people in real life an incalculable amount of pain? With this in mind, I’m not sure how to feel about a mainstream film, since the public consciousness of this character outside of the internet is entirely associated with this tragedy. As with most things, I will wait for a trailer to be released before I get excited about this project, and I will in all likelihood see it, but when I do it will be with a somber resignation that I don’t normally carry with me when I sit down for a horror movie. Still, stories and characters have a way of persisting through time, for better or worse, and regardless of how I feel about the character, I have a feeling he won’t be going anywhere any time soon.
What do you think of the news? Are you looking forward to the Slender Man’s big screen debut, or do you think this online urban legend should have stayed in the dark recesses of the internet? Be sure to let us know @TheMovieChickk!
Looking for a more humorous scary movie? Check out Cabin In The Woods on Amazon.com!