'Slender' is a Superb Slice of Horror

Slender feels like the gaming equivalent of a campfire story: A short but evocative bit of horror that takes advantage of our primal fears.

Slender is a free indie game by Parsec Productions based off the Slender Man mythos that originated in a Something Awful forum thread about fake paranormal pictures. His creation and history are a fascinating story, a community-driven monster myth in the making, so it was only a matter of time until someone made a game about him.

Slender is a simple game made by someone with an intuitive understanding of horror; everything in this game is designed to freak you out. You’re dropped into a small open world, a woodsy area at night, all you have is a flashlight, and you have to find eight sheets of paper before the Slender Man gets you. The catch is that the Slender Man can appear anywhere. It’s a game that plays off of our basest fears: Fear of the dark, fear of getting, lost, fear of getting chased, and each of these fears plays off another.

The Slender Man himself is scary as hell in his simplicity. He’s a faceless man in a black suit with unnaturally long arms; he doesn’t attack you, he doesn’t run after you, he doesn’t even really move -- at least not that you can see. Instead, he just appears near you, out of thin air, sometimes at a distance and sometimes right behind you, but never in front of you. That’s what makes him so scary: He always appears where you’re not looking, so your natural tendency is to try and look everywhere so you’re not ambushed, but every time you turn you increase the likelihood of seeing him. You can’t actually look at him or you’ll die, so when you do see him the only option is to run away. It’s a monster that plays into our fundamental fear of the dark, of what we can’t see.

The music is great. It doesn’t actually start until you pick up a page, but the moment you do a low drum starts beating slowly, over and over again. There’s a subtle echo to the sound, and it’s naturally unnerving. As you collect more pages, more noise is added until the soundtrack becomes oppressive all by itself.

Like all good horror, there’s a slow build of tension in Slender, though a player can shorten that time the more they play. There are multiple distinctive landmarks that usually contain a page, but not always. Page locations are random, lending the game a rougelike quality. The more you play the easier it becomes to find pages since you know your way around the forest, but the randomness prevents the game from ever becoming easy, and when the Slender Man starts hunting you it’s scary no matter how familiar the woods are.

The forest is naturally creepy since anything can be hiding behind any tree, and you’re your mind starts to play tricks on you. In the dark and from a distance, the average tree trunk is about the same width as the Slender Man; you begin to see him everywhere.

Perhaps the funniest and most fun thing about Slender is how it can consistently turn even the most stoic player into a frightened child, and make us do all the stupid things we chastise characters for doing in a slasher flick. For example: If you see the Slender Man and he’s close to you, the music lets out a loud bang. It’s a cheap jump scare, but it works differently here than it does in the movies. You’ll jump (it’s a cheap scare but it is effective) and when you do your hand will move, which makes the mouse move, which causes the in-game character to spin around, which causes you to panic for a half second until you recover. This inevitably happens at least once per game because the jump scare is so instinctive and so physical. It’s wonderful to see an overused, clichéd scare tactic turned into something unique: An expression of pure panic felt in the real world and the virtual world.

Slender feels like the gaming equivalent of a campfire story: A short but evocative bit of horror that takes advantage of our primal fears.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.