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Tubi Tuesday: Slender (2016) - A Prank Documentary/Found Footage? [Spoiler Free]

Movie poster for the 2016 film "Slender" depicting a tall man in a suit amongst the trees

Slender was released in 2016 and was directed by Joel Petrie (The Tell-Tale Heart 2022, Romeo and Juliet 2017). The film revolves around a group of friends who are in the process of making a documentary. At the start, they don't have an idea of what they want to make. Once they find their topic, things progress into an avenue that not everyone feels comfortable with. Initially, the crew plans to share one woman's story about how her two young boys were abducted. Then Joel decides it would be better to prank the woman into seeing the dark entity that she believes took her children - Slenderman.

We spend a good bit of time with Dan Schoveares (Slender, Aptitude Test 2015) and Joel at the beginning of the film while they figure out what exactly they want the documentary to be about. This story falls into their laps when Dan spots Mili Parks (Christmas Oranges 2012, Marilyn Monroe's Last Press Conference 2022) on the bus having a breakdown. He decides to talk with her and she shares that his shadow figure with no face and long arms stole her two young boys from the playground. Dan brings this idea to Joel and they agree to interview Mili.

The crew is small, with Joel as the director, and Dan as a co-director and editor. Jyllian Petrie (The Last Descent 2016, Yellowstone 2018) is Dan's girlfriend and Joel's sister. She does some camera work along with makeup and then later makes the Slenderman costume that the team uses. Finally, we have Ryan Templeman (High School Musical 2006, Mosaic 2018), who also does camera and sound work. He is the crew member selected to be in the Slenderman costume.

We see things start off steady; the crew interviews one of the officers on the case of the missing boys. We learn that his partner was killed in action, and it appears to be some sort of cover-up. Further leading the audience to believe that Mili is correct in her beliefs about what happened to her boys. However, once they do an official interview with Mili, she changes her story. She explains that she was off her antipsychotic medication when she first met Dan. She further explains that now she is back on her medication, she knows some evil entity didn't take her boys; some bad person did.

Dan and Joel are disappointed that her story has changed but then Joel gets his idea to prank Mili and turn the documentary into a story about fear. Joel has everyone do some research on this Slender character and we learn that this entity dates back centuries and this entity will come after you if you believe in it, and if you don't believe, it will make you. Dan and Jyllian are not fully on board with the idea but seem to hope that Joel will change his mind.

The plan is set to go as follows; they plan to invite Mili over to the school that her boys went to. Then they lead her into the lower level of the school and stage Ryan in the costume at the bottom of the stairs. Once Mili is at the bottom of the stairs, Ryan will come stalking out in order to scare Mili. All of this will be caught on video and Joel is certain this will be a hit with people and bring them in some good money. However, this plan does not end up going the way any of them thought it would.

My biggest issue with this film is that it does not have any redeemable characters. Joel is a total jerk and guilt trips his friends into helping him prank this poor woman who lost her kids. Dan and Jyllian bring up their reservations many times but Joel will not listen to the voices of reason. He keeps pushing for his vision and they give in. I think all the behind-the-scenes footage is supposed to get the audience on Dan and Jyllian's sides but it didn't land for me. Toward the end of the film, both Dan and Jyllian plan to leave and not participate in the prank but Joel convinces them to help at the last minute.

The last 20 minutes of the film are really fast paced and exciting. However, once the film ends, it leaves the audience with a lot of questions. And not in a post-film conversation with friends kind of way. I felt frustrated at the end because it felt like nothing was wrapped up in an even partially logical way. I wish they would have spent more time on the lore and less time on the audience seeing behind the scenes with the crew. Especially with characters that did not seem redeemable. While I normally love the slower pacing of some found footage films, this one did not give the audience much to work with. Even the ending scenes seemed lacking in terms of what the audience is really wanting/expecting to see, the real Slenderman.

5 Screams out of 10

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