HBO's Slenderman Documentary Looks Scary As Hell

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Two years ago in Wisconsin, a pair of 12-year-old girls got charged as adults with attempted homicide in Waukesha County Circuit Court. According to court records, Morgan Geyser and Anissa Weier had stabbed one of their friends 19 times during a birthday-party sleepover, leaving her to die in the woods and citing the Internet meme Slenderman as their inspiration. The fictional character, a towering and faceless ghoul that stalks children, purportedly instructed the girls to kill their friend so they could become his "proxies." In police reports, Geyser said she and her friend had to commit the crime or else Slenderman, created as part of a Photoshop contest in 2009, "would kill our family." The victim miraculously survived, but the incident became a modern-day horror story, one that generated panic about the web's power to confuse young, unstable minds.

That's where Beware the Slenderman comes in. Directed by Irene Taylor Brodsky, the HBO doc chronicles the rise of the bogeyman as well as the Waukesha nightmare. The above trailer for the movie, which debuted at SXSW earlier this year to positive reviews, gives you an idea of what to expect: freaky reenactments, family interviews, and true-crime intrigue.

"Jutting between the tropes of a true crime thriller, family drama and investigative journalism," wrote IndieWire's Eric Kohn, "Brodsky delivers a probing look at this uniquely modern tragedy." Variety calledBeware the Slenderman's assembly "unfussily well-judged on all levels." See for yourself this Saturday at DOC NYC, or on January 23 via HBO. 

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Sean Fitz-Gerald is a staff writer at Thrillist Entertainment. Find him on Twitter: @srkfitzgerald.