Always Watching: A Marble Hornets Story (2015)
From the Marble Hornets web series most responsible for popularizing the Slender Man character as the YouTube generation’s go-to bogeyman, Always Watching expands the paranormal construct into a feature-length film. From first-timer James Moran, the found-footage horror pic also unfolds in an environment more frightening than its villain: the Great Recession’s housing crisis!
While doing a story about foreclosed homes for the local news, a WZZC reporter (Alexandra Breckenridge, TV’s American Horror Story), producer (Jake McDorman, Live Free or Die Hard) and cameraman Chris Marquette (The Girl Next Door) enter an abode vacated by its residents, yet the place still looks lived-in. Within a stairwell hidey-hole, our TV news crew finds a box of videotapes.
Naturally, those tapes tell the tale behind the Whitlocks’ vanishing act, as well as pin the blame on a blank-faced, well-dressed figure (Doug Jones, Hellboy’s Abe Sapien) who cannot be seen with the naked eye. Only by looking through a camera lens can this mute creep be seen. As audience members, we’re either watching the Whitlocks’ home videos or the WZZC cameraman’s footage; regardless of the source, whenever the ghostly figure is about to appear, the picture jumps with static or other distortion, which is as much a warning to scaredy-cats as it a suspense-killer.
Admittedly, the idea of Slender Man is creepy. He looks creepy. But Always Watching is a little too like him, in that his movie just kinda stands there and wants you to do all the work, Where’s Waldo?-style. It’s not enough to sustain a feature — at least not this feature. It’s simplistic, but not in a way that Moran would dare trot out the ol’ cliché of “cat suddenly leaps into frame” just for a cheap jump-scare. He’s too smart for that.
Nope, he uses a dog. —Rod Lott