Beware the Slenderman works as a cautionary tale. Highlighting the consequences of how stories on the Internet aren’t always easily recognized as fiction. Especially when it comes to young and susceptible minds.

Beware the Slenderman poster - HBO documentaryBeware the Slenderman is about the modern day boogeyman called “Slenderman”, a character that was invented and evolved online. If you don’t know anything about Slenderman, then you needn’t worry. Beware the Slenderman does spend a good amount of time explaining and examining this phenomenon.

For this purpose, various experts are involved. I was pleasantly surprised that both the traditional “old professor”, types as well as younger “meme experts”, were involved here. You can’t truly understand any online phenomenon without talking to the people living it.

Personally, I knew of Slenderman. In part due to my obvious affinity for all things horror. Still, for me, it was mostly the fascinating images that caught my eye. Unfortunately, for some younger people, it became very real!

Especially via YouTube videos featuring “real life sightings”. Some clearly manufactured and some featuring kids, who seem to honestly believe they’re seeing Slenderman. He’s as real as Santa Claus is for little kids.

Or creepy clowns to anyone who watched Stephen King’s IT at a young age, where Pennywise became synonymous with all clowns!

Beware the Slenderman is a look at all the victims

Obviously, the victim of this crime is the 12-year-old girl, who was stabbed by two other 12-year-old girls, who she thought were her friends. In fact, these two girls still claim to be her friends. They simply felt they had to do this in order to protect themselves from Slenderman.

And since we are dealing with 12-year-old girls, it’s fair to look at all three (and their respective families) as victims of the crime. Again, I recognize that, of course, the girl being stabbed is the victim of the crime itself, but they are all victims of the circumstances.

Beware the Slenderman documentary review - Morgan Geyser and Anissa Weier

That’s probably why most of this documentary features interviews with the parents of the two girls, who are currently in jail. They’re trying to make sense of it all since they never saw any signs that this could happen.

Anissa Weier’s father is very clear and honest about how he sympathizes with the family of the stabbing victim. Because if he is confused and baffled that his daughter could take part in this crime, then the parents with a daughter, who was stabbed must have it even worse.

I don’t want to take away too much from you experiencing how things unfold in this documentary, so I won’t say more about this. But I do feel we get a pretty good idea about how and why this happened.

Runtime is too long, but the story is captivating

At almost two hours, Beware the Slenderman does run on for too long. There’s a focus on the dangers of kids having iPad, which I don’t really get. I mean, I know the Internet can be dangerous, but so can any real life friendship if things get out of hand.

Peter Jackson’s brilliant Heavenly Creatures starring Melanie Lynskey and Kate Winslet in feature film debuts for both is a perfect example of this. It was based on the real-life story of how two girls have a fantasy world that took over their life. When the parents intervened it had fatal consequences. And this took place in 1954, which was a long time before the Internet.

I understand the fears parents have in regards to the Internet. Still, the fixation with the iPad, in particular, being dangerous is an oversimplification. Besides, these days you can’t even complete an education in the Western world without going online. Literally, you need to hand in assignments online – and often receive them there as well.

Beware the Slenderman review - HBO documentary 2017

Is a 12-year-old committing a crime an adult?

The other focus of Beware the Slenderman is the actual court drama concerning the two 12-year-old girls. Specifically, whether they should be tried as adults or not. If you don’t know the case, then do yourself a favor and allow this movie to tell you the story first.

During the case, we’re not allowed to see the faces of these two girls. Well, except for a sudden slip-up, which was very strange and dangerously foreshadowing.

Irene Taylor Brodsky directed the Beware the Slenderman documentary. Besides the above-mentioned issues, she made a very entertaining and enlightening documentary. Personally, I would love to see a follow-up in a few years, when all court proceedings are over. Interviews with the two girls would be amazing, but also with the victim of the stabbing. Should any of them want to participate, of course.

Beware the Slenderman premiered at SXSW 2016 and will be released on HBO starting January 23, 2017.


Director: Irene Taylor Brodsky


A documentary about the Slenderman stabbing in 2014.

I write reviews and recaps on Heaven of Horror. And yes, it does happen that I find myself screaming, when watching a good horror movie. I love psychological horror, survival horror and kick-ass women. Also, I have a huge soft spot for a good horror-comedy. Oh yeah, and I absolutely HATE when animals are harmed in movies, so I will immediately think less of any movie, where animals are harmed for entertainment (even if the animals are just really good actors). Fortunately, horror doesn't use this nearly as much as comedy. And people assume horror lovers are the messed up ones. Go figure!
Karina "ScreamQueen" Adelgaard
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