There’s trouble in paradise, and by paradise, I mean the discussions about marketing for the upcoming horror film Slender Man. The issue right now is between the producers and Sony Pictures, the studio that’s expected to release the movie later this summer.
Sony’s Steve Bersch, the head of the Screen Gems division overseeing “Slender Man,” is a fan of the picture and wants to release it, according to another insider, but the studio’s brass is concerned about social media backlash.
In short, there’s a disagreement over whether or not Slender Man will cause online backlash, which wouldn’t be so crazy, given that its name is taken from a 2009 meme about a fictional character that may have played a role in a real-life stabbing. It would indeed behoove Sony to tread cautiously.
According to Variety, Sony thinks of Slender Man as a “low-budget, Blumhouse-style release,” referring to the production company known for Paranormal Activity, The Purge and Get Out. But the producers think the movie should have a bigger marketing push, and have been shopping the distribution rights around to other studios, including Netflix, because they “have more confidence in the movie and are pushing for the picture to unspool across more screens.”
Any studio that picks up the film will have to contend with its association to the Slender Man meme and that meme’s association with a 2014 incident in which two then 12-year-old friends lured their classmate into the woods and stabbed her 19 times, according to court documents. The friends allegedly said the attack was meant to impress Slender Man. (Both were found not guilty by reason of mental defect or disease, and were sentenced to serve time in mental institutions instead of prison.)
The Slender Man movie doesn’t reference the stabbing, but it may not have to—“He gets in your head, like a virus” is a line from the trailer, which for what it’s worth feels slow, dull, and gratuitous. The connection is obvious. If Sony is worried, they probably should be.