This movie's title sounds kind of misleading then. What is it actually about?
In a way, Beware the Slenderman has less to do with its titular character and more to do with the psychological and legal aspects of the Waukesha incident. Since Brodsky couldn't interview the Leutners, she spent a lot of time with Morgan and Anissa's families, humanizing their end of the story in a way that's insightful and sensitive. The movie doesn't just touch on what happened, but also why, and, in a cautionary sense, what the stabbing could mean for other families. In fact, Brodsky hints at big moral questions about brain development, internet access, and whether children should be held accountable for adult crimes.
What should I know to better understand that aspect of the movie?
A few things:
- Under Wisconsin state law, all murder and attempted-murder cases for children older than 10 must start in adult court.
- A state psychiatrist has diagnosed Morgan with early onset schizophrenia.
- Experts have testified that Anissa has a delusional disorder and schizotypy, a diminished ability to distinguish fact from fiction.
- Courts have ruled that both girls can understand the charges against them and aid in their own defense.
Why is all of that important?
The court in which the girls are tried, along with how they are tried, ultimately affects their sentences. If convicted in criminal court, the girls could serve up to 65 years in prison. If moved to juvenile court, they would likely regain their freedom upon turning 18. Some argue the stabbing plot was so vicious and calculated it warrants an adult punishment; others, including the defendants' parents, contend that Wisconsin's laws for trying minors as adults are outdated and have not advanced alongside modern understandings of child brain development and rehabilitation.