By: Michael Mitchell (Horror alum, Winter 2013)
I can’t remember when or how exactly during my Freshman year I first heard of Slenderman, but I can remember feeling an odd combination of curiosity to learn more, and fright of what more I might actually learn. I decided to do a little research into what exactly Slenderman was, and ended up finding out it was one of those things that I couldn’t really turn myself away from. Unfortunately, it was also one of those things that always manages to pop into my head the second I close my eyes to go to sleep. See, for me, Slenderman wasn’t just another horror movie monster; he wasn’t the type of thing to torment a person for a while, or to eventually reveal his motives, or even the type of thing that appears to have some flaw or weakness that would eventually make a Hollywood movie star victorious over him.
No. Slenderman is a thing of purposeless torment. He is unrelenting, but also knows how to let his victim suffer slowly. He can’t be defeated. But worst of all, he does all this without reason. I think that’s what makes him so scary for me: the ambiguity. In modern horror – game, book, movie, or otherwise – most of the time there is a slow reveal of the reason behind the horror. Someone isn’t respecting the graves of so-and-so’s ancestors; someone wants revenge for the murder of his mom who was murdered for murdering for revenge for her dead son; a woman is the perfect candidate for giving birth to the Antichrist; etcetera, etcetera. With Slenderman, though, there is no reason. He is clearly a supernatural being: his extra-long limbs and featureless face are just the most notable of his horrifying image. And the terror he instills cannot be denied; however, he still stands out as different from the other “typical” creatures of horror in many ways. He picks his victims at random, and torments them for years (or even decades). In the world of horror, he is actually somewhat of an anomaly. Does he kill his victims? Does he transform them? Does he ever even stop? There is no real answer for his actions, and I think that is what makes him so perfect a subject for a horror class.
The most notable (and original) source of the Slenderman mythos spawns from a series of found-footage YouTube videos known as the Marble Hornets videos. These videos go for the slow reveal, which is part of what makes them terrifying. There is a real sense of suspense with the videos and you never know when or what will take you by surprise in the corner of the screen or what sort of visual disturbance will startle you next. And yet, they are something you cannot look away from. However, they are actually not the scariest way to experience Slenderman. That honor goes to the Slenderman games.
Originally a small, free-to-play project, Slender: The Eight Pages requires players (from a first-person perspective) to explore a desolate wooded area with just a flashlight searching for eight pages that reveal certain aspects of Slenderman himself. Taking it one step further, however, and massively upping the scare factor, was Slender: The Arrival. The graphics are better, the levels are longer, and the terror is as real as it could be. This time around, you not only search for eight pages, but go on a series of explorations in search of your friend.
I cannot stress enough just how terrifying playing these games can be. You are the victim. You experience the feeling of being chased by Slenderman for yourself, and you are witness to just what kind of psychological manipulation he is capable of. One second you will be searching an empty house, the next you will turn the camera and catch just a glimpse of Slenderman before the camera begins to malfunction. Every step you take, you take knowing he could appear out of nowhere. Not to attack you instantly, but to slowly make his way to you, as if to say “I know I’ve got you, there is no escape”. The visual clues, the darkness, and the entire first-person experience make this game one of the scariest experiences there is to have. If you love horror, and you love the thrill of a good scare, this is for you. You will be terrified, but you will not want to stop playing. And most importantly: once you learn of Slenderman, you will never forget him. You will never forget that he…could…be…anywhere.