It might be difficult to remember a time on the internet before the coming of Slenderman. A horrific entity disguised as a man in a black suit, the tall, tentacled creature has quietly spent years infesting web users’ imagination with tales of child abduction and of backyard film projects gone terribly, tragically wrong.
The way the creature has spread and the types of stories he inspires has much in common with the urban legends of yesteryear: frightening stories of crime and the unexplained which everyone swears happened to someone they know, yet which no one can ever verify.
But unlike the classic urban legends, we actually know exactly where Slenderman comes from. And now we also know where he is going: that inevitable destination of all great monsters, the screens of our movie theatres.
According to ComicBook.com Screen Gems has acquired a script for a new film centering on the faceless, tentacled stalker. Details are sparse for the time being, but it comes with a promising pedigree. Screen Gems have found success in the realm of contemporary folklore before with their film The Mothman Prophecies and script writer David Birke is well-suited to the realistic type of storytelling that Slenderman tales usually employ, having authored the biopics Dahmer and Gacy about well-known real-life serial killers. Slenderman has already seen extensive adventures in long-running web series such as Marble Hornets and Tribe Twelve, and in independently-made feature films such as Windigo and Eidolon State. Given what these productions have achieved with minimal budget, it will be interesting to see what an experienced horror writer and studio can do with the character.
Long before thought of a major movie, or even its crude internet predecessors, however, there was indeed a verifiable origin for Slenderman. It is well-known that the creature spawned from the imagination Something Awful forum user Victor Surge, who Photoshopped the faceless, suit-clad man into some normal photographs as part of a contest.
A few lines of text were added to give the character some flavor and that was that.
Something about the lanky, child-stealing entity struck a chord in collective imaginations, however, and a new urban legend was born; something that Victor Surge (the nomme de plume of one Eric Knudsen,) has mixed feelings about, as told to blogger Slenderman235:
“I didn’t expect it to move beyond the SA forums. And when it did, I found it interesting to watch as sort of an accelerated version of an urban legend. It differs from the prior concept of the urban legend in that it is on the Internet, and this both helps and harms the status of the Slender Man as one.”
The beast’s creator may have a point. The central horror of Slenderman stories, and what seems to make him so appealing as a collaborative character is that no one is ever sure exactly what he is or what he wants, and this is at odds with the meme’s very mundane and accidental internet origins. Now Screen Gems and David Birke will have their turn adding to the mythos.
For good or for ill remains to be seen, but either way it is proof that no matter where a story comes from, if you tell it enough times it is bound to leave its mark.