The internet has become a great place for viral storytelling. Through the advent of horror short stories (otherwise known as “Creepypasta”) a new generation of people can scare others through short-form fiction and pass the metaphorical baton onto another to continue the story. This is why the “Slenderman,” created in 2009 from the Something Awful online forum, was able to resonate with so many people. The simplistic design, the inclusion of children into the narrative and convincing black-and-white photos allowed multiple forum members to get in on the act.
But what can happen when that act becomes so compelling and convincing that it can flip a switch in someone’s mind? Well, that’s what filmmaker Irene Taylor Brodsky is trying to find out with her documentary Beware the Slenderman which made its debut at SXSW earlier this year. The documentary follows the criminal investigation of Anissa Weier and Morgan Geyser, two twelve year old girls who brutally stabbed their friend 19 times and left her for dead in the forest. The victim managed to survive with Weier and Geyser being taken into custody, claiming they committed the act in order to appease the Slenderman.
The Slenderman may be a compelling fictional character to many internet-users with the character inspiring a successful video game franchise from Parsec Productions, served as inspiration for “The Enderman” in Minecraft, a movie called The Tall Man movie from Image Entertainment and the successful found-footage online series turned movie Marble Hornets. But in a new age of communication and storytelling that’s easily accessible to anyone of any age, it’s worth asking what effect this new media can have on impressionable people. Fiction is a powerful force and can resonate with people very differently, sometimes in dangerous ways.
Beware the Slenderman will debut on HBO in early 2017. The trial of Anissa Weier and Morgan Geyser is still ongoing.