A Marble Hornets Story...

I’m not exactly “hip” when it comes to keeping up with what the kids call Creepypasta. But I had absolutely heard of the Slenderman. It wasn’t until very recently that I understood that the two were related. But still, my knowledge didn’t go far beyond that. Then one evening I was making my way through the Google Play Store to see what indies were released that I may have missed. I came across a film titled: Always Watching: A Marble Hornets Story. It was obviously a Slenderman film – which I thought would be interesting, but wasn’t sure if I wanted to pull the trigger. I put it on the back burner. After all, I have no shortage of things to watch.

Then in a casual conversation with Chad Troy, we began talking about the Slenderman. He went on to tell me about a really cool web series that some people had made a few years back, and that I should check them out. It was by Marble Hornets. Naturally, I was reminded of the feature film I had seen listed previously and in fact discovered that the two were related. After watching several clips of the web series – I knew i’d be giving Always Watching a shot. So tonight, I did.

At the surface, Always Watching appears to be yet another cookie cutter found footage affair. You wouldn’t be wrong to make that assumption since – well, it kind of is. But in the best kind of way. It follows a news crew as they stumble upon a box of tapes during a routine story at a house that had been foreclosed on. These tapes showed a man and his family haunted by a faceless man in a suite – but here’s the kicker – they can only see him through the camera lens. That plot point alone addresses the ever present question of “WHY THE FUCK ARE YOU RECORDING” in found footage films. Simply put, they have to. And when your story revolves around a news crew – it’s not exactly far fetched. I bought it.

Of course, being “logical” is only half the battle. You have to bring the scares as well. So does Always Watching deliver in that department? I’d have to say yes. They certainly use the medium to their advantage in a way that few do. They keeps shots centered purposefully in an attempt to build suspense around what is on the left and right side of the screen. With each slow pan around a room, or entry through a door – you are expecting the worst. That sense of dread is present at several points throughout the film and is quite impressive for a team that seems rather new to the feature film scene. There are also tons of “easter egg” esque appearances of the Slenderman sprinkled throughout normal scenes. These moments aren’t exactly frightening, but they are neat – and assist in building the character. Even the sound design is top notch. Seriously, this is an impressive feature debut for director James Moran. But don’t be fooled – although not directing, Moran has been attached to some of the biggest theatrical releases horror has to offer in recent years. So the pedigree fits.

The cast isn’t particularly important. The characters are rather one dimensional, but the actors do a wonderful job in portraying them. The only “weak” performances in the film are turned in by characters with very little screen time. So that sort of thing is to be expected. And while the story sort of trails off for a half hour or so – it ultimately serves a purpose and pays off. My one huge, gigantic, depressingly common complaint – is the need to kill off one character in particular. You’ll see it coming from the moment he makes an appearance. It’s so ridiculously unnecessary, and I can’t believe filmmakers continue to do it. No spoilers… but come on now.

Always Watching brings the mythos of the Slenderman to the big screen in a way that I have never seen before. And for someone that wasn’t particularly interested in that mythos previously – I was quite interested and entertained. If you are one that follows all things Slenderman…then this is probably heaven for you. The suffix of “A Marble Hornets Story” gives me hope that these guys will produce more features from their ideas. It’s a talented group. One that I hope to see more of in the near future.

A small town news team discovers a box of video tapes where a faceless figure dressed in a dark suit, haunts and torments a family… slowly driving them insane. Soon after, they realize that the “Operator” has begun to stalk them as well.