For horror fans in the know, “Slenderman” is not a new concept. The creepypasta initially rose to Internet fame in 2009 when the meme appeared on the Something Awful forums. Telling a tale of a mysterious tall man in a black suit that has children do his murderous bidding, the monster quickly grew in popularity.
Multiple fans flocked to add their own take on the fictitious apparition to the growing Internet catalog. “Slenderman” not only inspired countless memes and video games, the legend began appearing in other aspects of pop culture. And while Sam (Jared Padalecki) and Dean Winchester (Jensen Ackles) may have battled it out with their version of the monster — in 2014’s “#thinman” episode — a real-life horror was about to change the trajectory of the story forever.
Just two months after that “Supernatural” episode first aired, two twelve-year-old girls lured another girl into the woods where they proceeded to stab her 19 times. The crime took place in Waukesha, Wisconsin and by all accounts, the girls claimed they committed the brutal act to impress the “Slenderman.”
The motivation behind the girls’ actions seem to be the main driving force behind HBO’s newest documentary, “Beware the Slenderman.” For those familiar with the fictional character, it seems like a concept long past its expiration date, but the haunting character — and the creepypasta that continues to thrive — is not the point here.
HBO goes beyond the dangers of reading horror stories on the Internet, or wondering if Ryan Murphy will ever bring the man to “American Horror Story,” to the very real danger in how children interact with certain online subject matter and how involved parents and adults really are in their lives.
With HBO’s newest doc joining the likes of other shows like Syfy’s “Channel Zero” — which taps into the very real, and dangerous, disconnect between adults and children — and TNT’s upcoming series “Creatures,” which sounds loosely inspired by the girls’ gruesome act, it feels like “Beware the Slenderman” may be tapping into an important component of our society that gets ignored far too often: Our children.
Will the HBO documentary unveil a new side to the story? Probably, but that’s not really the point. Sometimes viewers need to step back from their favorite shows, video games and websites to look at the reality around them. Because, as we’ve seen with the likes of “Serial,” “The Jinx” and “Making a Murderer,” real life may be the most terrifying genre of all.
“Beware the Slenderman” premieres Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2017 on HBO