Fear takes on a new form with ‘Slender’

Screenshot by Caitlin Piper
Screenshot by Caitlin PiperBy Caitlin Piper

Originally dreamed up by somethingawful.com user Victor Surge for a paranormal Photoshop contest on June 8, 2009, the Slender Man quickly caught on among the userbase, spreading across the Internet like wildfire.

We loved the idea of a 10-foot-tall, noodle-limbed, faceless monstrosity in a snazzy black suit stalking and devouring children, leaving their remains hanging on a lone forest tree for an unfortunate passerby to find.

Less than two weeks later, a group of young film students decided pictures weren’t enough.

On June 20, the first entry to the ongoing horror web serial “Marble Hornets” was posted to YouTube. Shot in a minimalist, “found footage” style, it follows 20-something film major Jay as he tries to put the pieces together after his friend, Alex Kralie, begins to act paranoid and aloof, leaving behind only a stack of videotapes as explanation. Episodes are rarely more than two or three minutes long and put their shoestring budget to great effect, allowing you to fill in the blanks as you personally witness Alex’s slow crawl into madness.

Even film critic Roger Ebert praised the show, calling it “remarkably well done.”

While not the first game to be based off the Slender Man, “Slender” is the one the Internet can’t seem to shut up about. A free, independently produced love letter to “Marble Hornets” by one-man studio Parsec Productions, it has exploded in popularity over the past couple of months after YouTuber PewDiePie posted a video of himself playing it on July 1.

Let me just say that headphones are a must while playing. There’s a lot this game does right, but the true genius within it is the music. It is simultaneously minimalist and somehow so very overwhelming that it forces you to focus on your task: finding eight pages scattered randomly across 10 landmarks that would feel right at home in Alex Kralie’s sketchbook.

You are an unidentified young girl armed with nothing but a dying flashlight and a video camera, arriving in a fenced-off, seemingly abandoned section of forest in the dead of night with no explanation. As a young girl, you can’t run very fast or for very long, which proves rather problematic when you first spot a particularly well-dressed gentleman off in the distance. You go for your first page after a few minutes of exploring the forest in silence, and suddenly a booming drum starts to rhythmically echo throughout the trees.

Welcome to the first layer of music. It will be burned into your mind soon enough.

Oh, and you should probably start moving.

“Slender: The Eight Pages” is not an easy game. You will die many, many times. After all, humanoid monstrosities need to eat too.

However, that doesn’t mean it isn’t fair, as long as you follow a few unwritten rules.

The first thing you should know is that you are required to look at the Slender Man, at first. He cannot move when he is in your line of sight. You can’t look for too long, though. At a rate depending on how close he is and how long you have him in your sights, your camera will be overtaken by shrieking static, allowing him to rush at you while you’re blinded. Wait too long and you’ll suddenly find yourself face-to-torso with your lanky pursuer. If that’s the case, game over.

You can sprint in short bursts, but go more than a second or two without rest and your character will begin to pant. After a while you will be unable to sprint at all, and the Slender Man has the ability to force you to turn around and look at him when he gets too close.

This is compounded by the fact that it is pitch black and your flashlight will eventually die. While it is possible to beat the game in under 10 minutes, it doesn’t take much longer for your flashlight to fail you.

Also realize that with each note you find, the Slender Man becomes more relentless in his pursuit. By the last three pages, you can’t turn around without risking him catching you automatically.

The only possible criticism I can think of is that the Slender Man model can look a little goofy once you get over the initial shock of his sudden appearance. While his arms are properly disproportionate, I can’t say the same for the rest of his body.

His legs are short even by human standards, and his small, oval head is laughingly reminiscent of an egg. I understand why this was done. If he were as tall as he was supposed to be, the heart attack-inducing sequence where he follows you into the cramped abandoned bathroom complex wouldn’t have been nearly as effective.

However, this isn’t enough to ruin what I believe to be the scariest game I’ve ever played.

It’s simple, but nothing short of brilliant. A must.

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