The Buzz: Beware the Slenderman Documentary

Documentary review: Beware the Slenderman: The story of Slenderman is possibly the creepiest myth to come from the Internet age. Originating as a creepypasta short story in 2009, the character has become widely known on the Internet almost as a template can be molded and inserted into any horror story. In most appearances he is depicted as being a tall pale man wearing a black suit and has no face, and some versions show him having long, shadowy tendrils extending out of his back. The character perhaps became most well-known by the mainstream with the release of the computer game Slender: The Eight Pages, in which players must navigate a dark forest searching for diary entries while the man hunts them.

Beware the Slenderman is a documentary that discusses a true attempted murder in 2014 when two 12-year old girls stabbed their friend 19 times in an attempt to impress the fictional Slender Man. The doc, directed by Irene Taylor Brodsky, takes an in-depth, emotional look at the lives of the two girls before they performed the stabbing in Waukesha, Wisconsin. It’s dark viewing, and sometimes can get as unnerving as Slender Man himself. Morgan Geyser and Anissa Weier invited their friend Payton Leutner over for a sleepover in May 2014 with the intention of stabbing her. The doc features footage of the two girls being interviewed after they performed the stabbing, where both expressed some level of reluctance before the stabbing and regret afterward. They had intended to leave her for dead in the forest where the stabbing occurred. They both, however, insisted the attack was “necessary” – they believed that Slender Man would have allowed them and their families to live in the Slender Mansion if they stabbed their friend, keeping them safe.

In order to understand the psychology of the two girls leading up to the attack, Brodsky interviews family and friends of the two girls, all of whom were shocked by the event. Brodsky tracks their online presence, discovering that Geyser left a trail of questionable comments on many YouTube videos, such as a video testing if you are a psychopath or not. “Lock me up!” the girl wrote after apparently earning a high score. Taken out of context, the comments would seem innocent enough coming from a young girl, but retrospect is 20/20, as Geyser’s mother Angie notes. Angie recounts signs she could have picked up on in the past that may have indicated problems her daughter was dealing with, such as expressing complete apathy when good characters died in movies.

The doc is a chilling look into how exposure to the Internet at a young age can impact the mental and social development of a child. Bill Weier, Anissa’s father, recalls giving an iPad to Anissa for Christmas, and how she became more socially withdrawn from her family after that. Anissa had always been a loner in school, her first and only friend being Morgan. Authorities believe that the two of them only speaking with each other and strangers on the Internet enabled their behavior. Near the end of the doc, Bill talks about how Anissa’s younger brother, in fifth grade, is required to have an iPad for homework. He plans to go to the school and voice his opinion.

Fortunately, Leutner was able to survive the stabbing after crawling through the forest and making it to a road, where a passing biker saw her and called for help. She has recovered fully and is even back in school, with none of her wounds proving fatal – though one missed a major artery by just one millimeter. Anissa and Morgan are being held at a juvenile correctional facility, where they will be tried as adults. Brodksy’s documentary is creepy and chilling, with the true events proving to be just as scary as the fictional material that caused them. It makes the viewer rethink just how much influence the Internet and imagination can have on a young, impressionable mind.