“The Rake” is a found footage short film written and directed by Kenneth Collins that delves into the Rake, a legendary creature that is now an integral part of the Slender Man mythos. The film follows three friends who head deep into the forests of Washington state only to discover that they are being stalked by an unseen predator.
The Rake owes it’s existence to a creepypasta meme of unknown authorship. Since the creature made its inaugural appearance in the original April 29, 2009 post, subsequent fan contributions tied the creature to the Slender Man universe. In the years that followed, the Rake made appearances in the Slenderverse series EverymanHYBRID (2010) and later in Whispered Faith (2012), where the creature goes under the pseudonym of the Speaker.
The original meme mentioning the Rake places the mythical creature in upstate New York. The entity is said to awaken unsuspecting victims in their sleep in the early hours of the morning, leaving them utterly terrified from the encounter.
Over the years, countless videos were posted about the Rake, but none is more popular and noteworthy than the 2011 video created and posted by Kenneth Collins.
The Rake opens with three teenagers, Kenneth, Eric, and Logan, preparing for an excursion in the forests of Washington State. The group plan on living off the land in the foreboding wilderness for a full month while filming their adventure. Before heading out on their survival expedition, the three friends stop at several big-box stores where they purchase camping supplies, food, and other necessities. With their provisions in-hand, the group drive out to the edge of the forest, park their car, and head into the treeline on foot.
After hiking for the better part of a day, the three friends set camp for the evening. The next morning Ken and Eric leave their tent and discover that Logan is missing—his clothes and food are left untouched, but Logan is nowhere to be found. The two remaining friends will soon learn the fate of their friend and wish they stayed in the comforts of civilization.
Found Footage Cinematography
The Rake is shot with a single consumer handheld video camera equipped with night vision. To the film’s credit, the footage does not contain any non-diegetic sound or background music. Director Kenneth Collins holds the video camera for the length of the film.
The strong appeal and notoriety of The Rake is in large part due to the creature design and (more importantly) how the Rake is revealed. Director Ken Collins demonstrates a great degree of restraint and subtlety introducing the creature. Unlike most horror movies that reveal the antagonist during a pre-defined climactic scene, astute viewers are likely to notice that the Rake makes a number of brief appearances throughout the film. All of these Rake appearances are subtle and go unnoticed by the characters in the film. In fact, these Rake sightings are so understated, that they are likely to go unnoticed by viewers who are not paying close attention to the background of the film.
The Rake does not contain an opening title card or losing credits, which further enhances the illusion of the possibility that the film falls in the realm of actual found footage.
The filming reason used in The Rake is rather straightforward. The main character, Ken, purchases a new handheld video camera and is intent on filming everything. Ken’s motivation for filming everything is in part due to the notoriety of playing with his new camera, and more centrally due to his plan to film the group’s expedition in the Washington forest.
During the latter part of the film, the characters find themselves in a dangerous predicament, but continue recording. The filming reason is preserved during these scenes by having the main character use the video camera as a light source.
Found Footage Purity
The found footage purity is a measure of how well a film adheres to its found footage conceit as plausibly being actual found footage. This particular measurement takes all aspects of a film into consideration. From a purely technical perspective, The Rake does a good job at maintaining a strong found footage purity.
Despite The Rake’s strengths, elements of the acting and underlying plot often question the veracity as to why the characters are out in the forest. The ad hoc nature of the characters’ trek into the forest and meager preparation creates a somewhat unstable foundation on which the core of the story rests upon. Setting aside these inconsistencies, The Rake does an admirable job and successfully achieves what the film sets out to do, which is create an entertaining and eerie rendition of the Rake mythos.
The acting in The Rake is often challenged, which often happens when relying on improvisational dialog, particularly with untrained actors. We can also safely presume director Kenneth Collins did not anticipate that The Rake would achieve the cult status the film currently enjoys in the Slender Man mythos.
Kenneth Collins plays character Ken, who performs most of the cinematography and has the lion’s share of dialog. Most of the acting and dialog in The Rake comes across as ad hoc and improvisational. Character Ken uses his dialog to effectively direct the actions of the other two actors and progress the story forward. Playing Ken’s two friends Eric and Logan are Eric Goessens and Logan Podpora, respectively.
The Rake does an exceptional job serendipitously revealing the Rake creature while at the same time leaving the characters in the film oblivious to the fact that they are being stalked. Marble Hornets (2009) employs a similar tactic, whereby Slender Man is laced throughout the series in obscure locations, leaving it to dedicated fans to seek out the faceless being in a Where’s Waldo-esque exercise.
The film also effectively incorporates key elements of the lore described in the original creepypasta meme.During one such scene, Ken recites an entry from a journal belonging to one of his friends describing late night encounters with the Rake as a child—a plot element closely mirroring the original mythos.
While The Rake wonderfully executes the mythos in a compelling and engaging manner, inconsistencies with the execution of the underlying plot often challenge the suspension of disbelief throughout the film. Based on the size of their backpacks, the amount of food and potable water the group brings with them doesn’t appear to be sufficient to support the group for a month (or even a week). The three friends discuss “living off the land,” but they don’t have a gun to hunt with or equipment to fish. Additionally, the motivation and reason for the expedition is not thoroughly fleshed out, adding to the questionable nature of the story.
Disparities aside, The Rake has achieved cult status in the Slender Man mythos. Director Kenneth Collin’s film adaptation of the Rake creature is among the first and most notable. The film’s treatment of the Rake creature, including the subtle reveals, are both innovative for its time and eerie, making The Rake a must watch for fans of the genre.