PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.

'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.

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.





Peter Guralnick's 'Looking to Get Lost' Is an Ode to the Pleasures of Writing About Music

Peter Guralnick's homage to writing about music, 'Looking to Get Lost', shows how good music writing gets the music into the readers' head.


In Praise of the Artifice in George Cukor's 'Sylvia Scarlett'

George Cukor's gender-bending Sylvia Scarlett proposes a heroine who learns nothing from her cross-gendered ordeal.


The Cure: Ranking the Albums From 13 to 1

Just about every Cure album is worth picking up, and even those ranked lowest boast worthwhile moments. Here are their albums, spanning 29 years, presented from worst to best.


The 20 Best Episodes of 'Star Trek: The Original Series'

This is a timeless list of 20 thrilling Star Trek episodes that delight, excite, and entertain, all the while exploring the deepest aspects of the human condition and questioning our place in the universe.


The 20 Best Tom Petty Songs

With today's release of Tom Petty's Wildflowers & All the Rest (Deluxe Edition), we're revisiting Petty's 20 best songs.

Joshua M. Miller

The 11 Greatest Hits From "Greatest Hits" Compilations

It's one of the strangest pop microcosms in history: singles released exclusively from Greatest Hits compilations. We rounded 'em up and ranked 'em to find out what is truly the greatest Greatest Hit of all.


When Punk Got the Funk

As punks were looking for some potential pathways out of the cul-de-sacs of their limited soundscapes, they saw in funk a way to expand the punk palette without sacrificing either their ethos or idea(l)s.


20 Hits of the '80s You Might Not Have Known Are Covers

There were many hit cover versions in the '80s, some of well-known originals, and some that fans may be surprised are covers.


The Reign of Kindo Discuss Why We're Truly "Better Off Together"

The Reign of Kindo's Joseph Secchiaroli delves deep into their latest single and future plans, as well as how COVID-19 has affected not only the band but America as a whole.


Tommy Siegel's Comic 'I Hope This Helps' Pokes at Social Media Addiction

Jukebox the Ghost's Tommy Siegel discusses his "500 Comics in 500 Days" project, which is now a new book, I Hope This Helps.


Kimm Rogers' "Lie" Is an Unapologetically Political Tune (premiere)

San Diego's Kimm Rogers taps into frustration with truth-masking on "Lie". "What I found most frustrating was that no one would utter the word 'lie'."


50 Years Ago B.B. King's 'Indianola Mississippi Seeds' Retooled R&B

B.B. King's passion for bringing the blues to a wider audience is in full flower on the landmark album, Indianola Mississippi Seeds.


Filmmaker Marlon Riggs Knew That Silence = Death

In turning the camera on himself, even in his most vulnerable moments as a sick and dying man, filmmaker and activist Marlon Riggs demonstrated the futility of divorcing the personal from the political. These films are available now on OVID TV.


The Human Animal in Natural Labitat: A Brief Study of the Outcast

The secluded island trope in films such as Cast Away and television shows such as Lost gives culture a chance to examine and explain the human animal in pristine, lab like, habitat conditions. Here is what we discover about Homo sapiens.


Bad Wires Release a Monster of a Debut with 'Politics of Attraction'

Power trio Bad Wires' debut Politics of Attraction is a mix of punk attitude, 1990s New York City noise, and more than a dollop of metal.


'Waiting Out the Storm' with Jeremy Ivey

On Waiting Out the Storm, Jeremy Ivey apologizes for present society's destruction of the environment and wonders if racism still exists in the future and whether people still get high and have mental health issues.


Matt Berninger Takes the Mic Solo on 'Serpentine Prison'

Serpentine Prison gives the National's baritone crooner Matt Berninger a chance to shine in the spotlight, even if it doesn't push him into totally new territory.


MetalMatters: The Best New Heavy Metal Albums of September 2020

Oceans of Slumber thrive with their progressive doom, grind legends Napalm Death make an explosive return, and Anna von Hausswolff's ambient record are just some of September's highlights.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.