Reel Advice from the Video Store Guy
By Steve Anderson
December 1st, 2015

Always Watching: A Marble Hornets Story

Always Watching
Directed by James Moran
Written by Ian Shorr
Starring Alexandra Breckeridge, Chris Marquette, Doug Jones, Jake McDorman
91 mins

When it comes to horror of the last five years or so, give or take, the Slenderman stories have to be among the top of the heap. But this character, who has engendered thousands of stories, images, and occasional real-life crimes, has yet to make the jump to full-length feature films. Until now, thanks to "Always Watching: A Marble Hornets Story". But can this short-form powerhouse make the jump to full feature?

"Always Watching: A Marble Hornets Story" follows a small-town news crew who's gone on the hunt for the stories that will bring viewers in, keep advertisers buying ad space, and keep the operation up and running. Repossessed houses seem to be the ticket, until the news crew finds a box of DV tapes inside the locked closet of one home. The news crew takes the tapes back to the station for analysis, and discovers that this house wasn't emptied thanks to the bank...but thanks to a tall, faceless, slim man in a business suit. But when the mystery man on the video starts showing up in real life, the group must scramble to find out the mystery of the suited man, whom the team has come to call The Operator.

When it comes to found footage, it's hard to beat Slenderman. That's name recognition, and that's going to give it some boost walking right in the door. But even without the Slenderman brand attached to it, this is still some pretty potent stuff. The first 15 minutes or so do a fine job of building tension, and even without that mystique behind it, the rest of the movie doesn't do half bad building on that beginning. It's almost like a cross between "The Blair Witch Project" and "Sinister", and that's a combination worth checking out.

The really good news about all this is that it really doesn't need the Slenderman name behind it to be powerful horror. You could replace Slenderman in all these shots with Buhguul or a Yeti or a giant Barney the Dinosaur and it would still be freaky. It might actually be scarier with Barney, but that's beside the point. The point here is that this is not a sleazy cash grab, taking a YouTube phenomenon and making it go into wider release. This is a movie that can stand on its own merits, and uses the Slenderman property as a potent spice, not a focal point. Oh, and if you thought you recognized Percy, then congratulations, you did. It's actually Angus Scrimm, perhaps best known for his work in the Phantasm series.

The ending is abrupt and explosive, and though it doesn't make much sense in the end, nor is it very conclusive, it's going to be strong enough to make most anyone happy. Most of the loose ends are still left, but given that this is based on a series, there probably should be some loose ends left.

Special features here are limited to your choice of English or Spanish subtitles. If that's all there is, then that's all right; subtitles are always worth having on hand.

All in all, "Always Watching: A Marble Hornets Story" is a potent little shocker that uses the found footage concept surprisingly well. It's not the best movie by any stretch, but it stands on its own and delivers good shocks and plenty of atmospheric thrills.