ALWAYS WATCHING: A MARBLE HORNETS STORY (2015)
Directed by James Moran
On Region 1 DVD now
A local news team begin to report on repossessed homes, following workers who’s job it is to inspect each of the empty properties. Most of the homes are abandoned with very few items remaining inside and there’s always the chance of squatters or dangerous damage to the property inside, but one of the houses they visit still contains all the previous owner’s belongings. Snooping around the property, it looks like the previous owners, the Whitlock’s, must’ve left in a hurry to leave everything behind with even the child’s homework left unfinished at the kitchen table. Finding some camcorder tapes in the basement, the team decide to investigate the disappearance of the Whitlock’s and what caused them to flee so suddenly without so much as a goodbye. Whilst watching the tapes, news cameraman Milo discovers the family were being stalked by a suited stranger in the woods behind the Whitlock’s home. As he delves more into the case, he gets the feeling he’s being watched and it isn’t long before he realises that the stranger in the videos is now starting to stalk him. With the help of fellow news crew Sara and Charlie, Milo must discover the secrets of the stalker before he’s driven to the same mysterious end as the Whitlock’s.
Found footage style, hand-held horror ALWAYS WATCHING: A MARBLE HORNETS STORY takes the idea and character of Slender Man and turns him into the boogeyman antagonist in this tense, mystery chiller. Utilising the idea that the Slender Man, known in this film as The Operator, can only be seen using a recording device such as a camera makes an ideal reason to use the hand-held style to aid the telling of the story. Whenever The Operator appears, the footage begins to break up and stutter with static interference which ties in nicely with the videogames that feature Slender Man, Slender: The Arrival and 8 Pages. The film itself is inspired by the Marble Hornets YouTube series that started in 2009 that uses Slender Man as the basis of its horror and though Always Watching isn’t made by the same people, it uses the same ideas presented in the series including the recorded audio going silent whenever the Operator is present.
As a fan of the concept of Slender Man and the videogames, I was pleased to see the use of this creation in the film as The Operator. Played by genre favourite Doug Jones (Hocus Pocus, Pan’s Labyrinth, Hellboy) , The Operator is quite a terrifying image – just stood there, silently watching, faceless, suited and unemotional. The filmmakers create a real sense of panic when The Operator starts to invade the news crew’s life, as it has the Whitlock’s, and you genuinely begin to fear for poor Milo who lives and breathes video recording. His obsession is his downfall as he opens the gates for The Operator to haunt him and as they find out, you can run but you can’t hide.
Hand-held, found footage style films can be rather hit or miss, depending on how they utilise the medium, but ALWAYS WATCHING: A MARBLE HORNETS STORY uses it to its advantage. The story becomes much more intimate as the viewer feels part of the film crew even when Milo is home alone with nothing to keep him company except for his dog and his camcorder. What starts off as a routine report on repossessions turns into something rather sinister and you can imagine they’d wished they’d never set foot in the that house and uncovered its dark secrets waiting to be watched on the tapes.
Horror fans will be delighted by a cameo role by the original, tall, slender suited boogeyman, The Tall Man – Phantasm‘s Angus Scrimm. He may only have one line but it’s a blinding cameo role that adds the cherry on top of the already delicious offering.
As a whole, ALWAYS WATCHING: A MARBLE HORNETS STORY might not be blood-thirsty, with just a couple of violent scenes, but it ain’t half frightening at times. These types of ghost or creature stories can really get under your skin and whilst it’s not a perfect film, it definitely does a great job of unnerving you and sending a chill down your spine.
For fans of Victor Surge’s nightmarish creation, this is a horror flick definitely worth checking out.