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SLENDER MAN

About The Production
In the summer of 2017, a group of filmmakers quietly scouted locations in a series of flinty old towns northwest of Boston, preparing to make a film about a mysterious being they all thought they knew something about-yet, when pressed, would readily admit they knew almost nothing at all. Meanwhile, they crafted a realistic little town-homes, high school, hospital, cemetery and surrounding woods, found a perfect young cast and stepped into the terrifying realm of Slender Man.

One night during production, producers, director and actors sat around a virtual campfire and shared their anticipations, feelings and fears about this paranormal figure and how he's infused his mythos into 21st century hopes and fears.

"Slender Man is an unnaturally tall, phantomlike figure associated with the disappearance of people, often kids, in suburban or forested areas-and nobody knows what happens to the people who disappear," begins producer Brad Fischer. "He can sometimes be seen in photographs; you don't immediately realize that he is there until suddenly, you recognize him in the corner of the frame. His arrival can be categorized by 'Be careful what you wish for,' a warning for all, but especially for the kids growing up in a suburban malaise who get bored and might want to test the dark side-for suddenly they're facing something pretty terrifying." "Here is this tall man in a suit-but take the face away!" marvels producer Sarah Snow. "It's a figure of authority that's after you, and that's something that can be very frightening."

"I think that the imagery is really scary and haunting," says actor Julia Goldani Telles who plays sane, stable Hallie. "Because he doesn't have an expression you can put whatever you want on there. In the movie, all the girls have different ideas of what they get from Slender Man. Online there are forums about what everybody believes; it's become a community, a way of people working off of each others' fears. And building on them. Some people enjoy creating these stories. Other people, I think, are projecting their fears. It becomes obsessive."

"As a teenager who hasn't really developed her voice yet, I find it so difficult to find the truth because it's so easy to be confused in the world today," continues actor Annalise Basso, who plays sad, creative Katie, "and I guess Slender Man is a metaphor for the danger of being consumed by doubt. Things aren't black or white, there's lots of grey-but it's hard as a young person who's not yet mentally developed to navigate that world of grey because you can't see through that fog. You have to be equipped with the tools to navigate through that confusion and it's hard."

"Slender Man, he's so many things," says Jaz Sinclair who plays sweet, sensitive Chloe. "He's a figure in the woods and he's this mystical creature that targets your weaknesses. You can't catch him because he's inside your head."

"I think people are curious about what they don't know," says Alex Fitzalan who plays popular, likable Tom. "Slender Man is the first real horror figure born on the Internet, which I think is really cool. He's a completely original creation and from his inception he's just inspired so many stories. He's like our generation's own Freddie Krueger and his allure is that he belongs to this generation and not a prior generation."

Spanish actor Javier Botet who plays the title character observes how "Slender Man is like a blank paper. That's the power of this character because it's like something where you can put all your fears. When I knew I'd be playing this character, I loved it because in all the time I've been working these last years in horror, I enjoy very much when something is only insinuated. The cinema over the last years has shown a lot of things, a lot of the monster all the time. I always love it when something is there, you feel it's there, but you can see only a few little seconds. People need the space to fill it with their own fears."

Slender Man may have these eye-of-the-beholder elements, but he "certainly harkens back to existing concepts of mythology," adds executive producer Louis Sallerson. "There's the Pied Piper and other medieval and more modern ideas of something that takes your children away. In some ways I think we're most horrified by what is essentially an undermining of society. This idea that something can take your children, make them unrecognizable or take them altogether off the grid in a way that you can't imagine what has happened to them is not just a frightening thing for you, personally, but extrapolated is just as frightening a thing for society at large."

The creator of Slender Man, Eric Knudsen (aka Victor Surge) joined the cast and filmmakers and he provided his take on the character: "It's simultaneously easy and hard to describe him. It's easy to describe his appearance and to a lesser extent his method, but to describe his motives is impossible. Because that's the whole point! He's like an open-source creature. You can ascribe to him whatever trope or whatever you find frightening. And that's, I think, his appeal to a mass audience. You may think you know the rules, like who he's going to affect or how he's going to come after you-and then he might just flip the script and go in a completely different direction. And that's what makes him so frightening. It's the unknown nature of what he wants or what it wants... and what it does.

We don't know his motives. If we see his actions as something terrifying, it is something terrifying. If someone sees it as something safe or something good, that's how she perceives it. I want Slender Man to almost be above those concepts, above the concepts of good and evil, malicious or benign. It seems all terrifying, because it's so unknown to us."

"It's like a virus that affects your computer," adds Joey King who plays misfit Wren, "but you can take your computer to the Apple Store and they'll fix it for you. They'll get rid of the virus and your computer will be fine. But there's no computer store to get rid of a virus for your brain. So if you go to the hospital and say, 'I'm seeing Slender Man,' they're going to say let's take you to the mental ward; they're not going to say, 'Let's figure out what's wrong with your brain' and no matter what you do he'll still be there. It's a virus that you cannot get rid of." "I like that 'viral' aspect in both 'going viral' and in virus," adds producer Sarah Snow.

"You can't get rid of a typical virus. Once you've got it, it's there forever. There may be some ways of controlling its effect on you. But not with Slender Man-once he's found you he has you. Well, think about it like this: Slender Man exists within the Internet but until you've let him into your life he's just on the Internet. Once you have made this connection with him, he becomes real. He becomes a part of the real world around you, the shape and the fabric of your life. And whether that's just a perception or whether it's physically legitimate, he's standing in the corner of your bedroom."

Origins

Executive producer Louis Sallerson describes how the Slender Man character "was created originally as part of a contest on the Something Awful forum by Eric Knudsen (who online goes by the name Victor Surge). Basically, the contest was to take an existing photograph and add something paranormal to it. I don't think it required a text but Eric added it anyway, submitting two photos that became the original Slender Man photos, making up this backstory about how there had been a burned-down school or library and half the bodies were never discovered. Then he wrote another piece of text detailing something from the perspective of someone who had been taken by Slender Man. I think the wording was, 'his outstretched arms fascinated us or comforted us and horrified us at the same time.'"

"Back in June 2009, there was a thread on Something Awful called 'Let's Create Paranormal Images,'" says Knudsen. "At that time the thread was pretty young, there were only about three or four pages of entries. And I was looking through some of the entries, some of the pictures, and I said, 'oh, these are really good. I really like how they look. I think I can do some pretty creepy pictures myself.' As he prepared to create the character, Knudsen remembers, "I was thinking 'What would I personally find creepy?' There's the Mad Gasser of Mattoon, which was a strange event of mass hysteria that happened in Illinois in the mid-Forties. And I was thinking about video game series like Silent Hill. I was envisioning something in the background that was very tall, very unknown, very menacing. And I was thinking about H. P. Lovecraft. I'm very interested in Lovecraft's Cthulhu mythology about some terrifying unknown horrors; you can't discern their motives. I created those first two Slender Man pictures that I'm sure most people know about. And then I thought, 'Well, I don't want to just do a picture. I want to add just a little extra to it,' so I made a little bit of micro fiction. I wrote a description of the photo, just to make it a little bit more interesting, and the response I got was immediate. Everyone thought it was kind of creepy and really cool, so I continued making some more posts-I think I made about nine or ten in total, creating a story arc of this thing, this Slender Man that everyone really grabbed onto; they just ran with it and quickly a Slender Man mythology was growing.

"Slender Man became so popular and went viral. There was just something about him that's uncontrollable and in some ways belonged to the Internet," notes producer Sarah Snow.

The Story/The Characters

"It's a classic story of four girls who become curious about Slender Man and end up falling down the rabbit hole," says director Sylvain White. "The night starts off as an ordinary slumber party, a get together like the girls have had many times before, but tonight they're trying to do something they heard the guys would be doing doing, an absurd notion of conjuring Slender Man online. Curious, they follow the links but certainly don't think much of it-it's just another fun evening, and after they watch the weird video, they're completely unaware that its effects already taking hold of them."

"A couple of weeks later," continues producer Brad Fischer, "these four best friends- Hallie, Wren, Chloe and Katie, are on a class trip to an old historic graveyard. Katie's acting a little bit weird and ends up disappearing, and it's through trying to find out what happened to their friend that the other girls start to believe that it could be Slender Man that's behind it all. And they too start to fall down the same rabbit hole as their friend."

"The story is about the relationships between these girls who have different emotional lives and triggers that ultimately lead them to believe in Slender Man and fall for his manipulations," says Julia Goldani Telles, who plays sensible Hallie. "It's about each of them fighting herself and all of them fighting each other as they try to figure out what the truth is and what the lies are. It's about mass hysteria, how a secret subconscious language can lead to hysterical beliefs that originate from your brain."

"These four friends decide one night to try and summon Slender Man. It's just something like a Ouija board," notes Joey King, "and they think nothing will come of it. Of course a week later, weird little signs begin. It's a gradual buildup and it's really creepy because you don't want to hit the audience full on in the face in the first twenty minutes of the film. You watch these friends, who are so tight, as each of their worlds start to crumble and desperation takes over."

"The girls have known each other for a very long time. They grew up in this small eastern industrial town that's probably had its heyday in the '50s and '60s but has now been left behind," observes director Sylvain White. "The unemployment rate is high; it's a town that's struggling, so we see this generation of kids that's growing up within that environment. Their common bond and goal is to leave the town to try and look for something better. Boredom with their current environment drives them to look for something more exciting and their need to move on drives a curiosity that leads them to Slender Man and their true destiny."

Slender Man/Javier Botet

"Slender Man is very tall being with super long arms who appears to wear a suit and tie," says producer Brad Fischer. "While he has no face, no facial features, when he's looking at you, you know that he's looking at you (which I think it's one of the things that makes him so creepy). He also has tentacles that extend from out from his back that allow his body to look like it's hanging as he makes his way towards you as if from a gallows."

"Slender Man is widely known as being just a man in a suit," says Sylvain White, "however certain theories express that he came from another dimension, or another realm-that there's something otherworldly about him, and I'm embracing that, veering away from the concrete idea of a suit. In fact I think it's really interesting to reveal in the end that it's not a suit-that it's something else."

"The portrayal of his physicality for this movie falls into how I always felt about the Slender Man," says Knudsen. "As he sits in the periphery of your consciousness or your perception, he might just seem like a normal guy in a suit. He's a little tall, but the more you pay attention to him and the more directly you interact with him, the more apparent his true nature becomes. So, like in the case of this movie, once you are completely involved and are face to face with the Slender Man, you see him for his true horrific nature. That's exactly how I thought to portray him. A man in a suit represents the power structure we have today-a male patriarchy, a male-oriented social structure. Maybe in the past, when Slender Man appeared, he might have appeared in different guises. Like, in the Middle Ages, he might appear in a monk's robes or, in Japan, he might have appeared in Samurai armor-whatever kind of thing represents authority or a menacing authority."

"When you want to cast Slender Man, you want somebody who's really tall and thin, but it doesn't stop there, of course," says Sylvain White. "You need somebody who's going to be able to create the character with movement, with his body. And there's nobody better than Javier Botet to express the kind of morphology that we were looking for. He's an amazing artist able to perform things with his body that are unique and incredible while at the same time be able to portray a specific personality. He's expressed that he felt as if he were born to do this role-and we take that very seriously.

"First and foremost Javier is an amazing actor with great control of his body," observes producer Brad Fischer. "Having played creatures before, he has a great technical relationship with the camera and an intuitive understanding of what he needs to do to bring such a complicated character to life in the most horrifying way. It's not as simple as getting makeup applied and just showing up and standing there. It's a very rigorous process that requires a lot of discipline and we're thrilled to have Javier. Getting him was actually one of the biggest coups that we pulled off."

"Every monster is different challenge," says Botet (who The Hollywood Reporter called "the most in-demand monster man since Boris Karloff stomped around the Universal lot with bolts sticking out of his neck"*). "Like every normal character is in many ways always different, you try to understand the monster's background because each try to reach you in a different way. Some characters are aggressive and violent. Some fear you more than you fear them, like an animal, and defend his space. And some other characters, like for example, Slender Man, are more fluid. He is very stylish, very cold, very flowing in our minds. He has no fear because he is the fear. He's in another dimension. He's in your mind. So, yes, in my movements I try not to make any nervous moves, not to reach you in a violent way, because he's not a violent creature. I'm not moving at all the legs because I don't need to be in attack position, I don't need to jump forward fast and I don't need to run away. And as the fears of the principal characters are growing, the energy reaching toward them is growing."

Botet's performance and creation of the character is accomplished almost entirely in practical terms. "I love when the CGI helps the practicals," he notes, "and not when the CGI is everything. We made Slender Man almost all the time as a practical, my body with costume, makeup, prosthetics [created and applied by Adrien Morot and his team]. But the tentacles for example, they are a good part to do with CGI-you could try to do them with practicals but I think it would be crazy to move all these tentacles."

"Javier's look is completely terrifying," says Joey King. "When you meet him he's such a nice guy, such a sweetheart. He's already a presence in his own right-a very, very tall man, very, very thin. And then when he gets in costume it's bone chilling. The fingers are so long and the way he moves his body-I mean he's so good at it, my bones shake and it makes me have chills."

"Coming up with the design for Slender Man was really exciting to me, says Sylvain White. "So I put a lot of thought and effort into it. I did a lot of research and from there I took my ideas and, working with a concept artist, saw them come to shape. Once we had a concept that I was pretty happy with we went to Adrien Morot's team and they started working on the replication of our concept art."

Director Sylvain White

"Sylvain is a fantastic visual story teller," notes producer Brad Fischer. "There's a tendency in genre films to do the bare minimum-get the scares and walk away. But Sylvain wants to make it great, which shouldn't be the exception to the rule. His ambitions are enormous with this movie and I think it really pays off. Responding to a challenge that might have an easy visual effects solution, he'll make it work in camera, which I think pays off in a big way and really scare people."

"Sylvain created a reel specifically for this project that he sent to us [for consideration] and it was simply brilliant!" remembers producer Sarah Snow. "One of our biggest concerns when we were looking at directors would be to find someone who truly understood Slender Man and could really capture how terrifying he was-and we new immediately, looking just at that reel, that Sylvain understood Slender Man."

"In terms of the look and feel of the film we're doing a lot of things to get away from the studio genre aesthetic," says Sylvain White. "I'm really trying to give it a sort of a European flair, almost an indie flair, but at the same time grounding it in this tone of pure horror. So it's about finding the right balance. Pairing with DP Luca Del Puppo, who, like myself, is also European helps with this sensibility. We're trying to approach the material sideways instead of frontwards and we're able to create some very interesting frames that might be considered a little artsy for the genre, but we're going fully ahead and are very happy with what we've got. We're embracing that the movie's tone and feel is very dark but at the same time, it's very beautiful. There's a quality of surrealism that is important and the key reference to me, in terms of how I saw the movie from the beginning, is an old film by Luis Bunuel that he collaborated on with Salvador Dali, called Un Chien Andalou. That film really created the core vector for me visually."

"It was important to us-and especially important to Sylvain-that our movie felt grounded," notes executive producer Louis Sallerson, "that it didn't feel like Scream with its high-class suburbs and beautiful mansions. It was important that the characters reflected regular Americans, that their lives were representative of real-life struggles, because we saw Slender Man as a vehicle of escape for these characters-a dark escape but an escape nonetheless."

"I was really excited actually that we were going to film in New England" says Knudsen, "because I was led to believe that New England was full of inter-dimensional terrors." (H.P. Lovecraft, one of Knudsen's inspirations, lived in Providence, RI.)

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