Dan Schoenbrun’s A Self-Induced Hallucination doesn’t care if you can keep up with it. It burrows deeper and deeper, like an endless scrolling feed amidst the trash and treasures of niche online subcultures. It speaks the native language of these communities while refusing to neatly translate. If it feels like a bit much, well, so is the internet – the only way out is through.
Schoenbrun’s clever sequencing of found YouTube footage appears at first blush to merely retell the frightening social media legend of Slender Man, entirely from (often contradictory) primary sources. But its fractured form eventually reveals itself as a dizzying meditation on the mutability of authorship and truth online. It is a quietly ambitious marvel of editing, one that attempts to locate the contours of a new narrative structure within the cacophony of the internet. Yet for all its timeliness, its power lies within something much more elemental: the human need to tell stories.