I never really did get into the whole Slender Man / The Operator craze that has swept the internet as of lately. I know nothing about the backstory or the YouTube series, Marble Hornets, so you might say that I’m not the best person to be reviewing a movie that is based on it. However, I got to do my job and my job is to review a movie called Always Watching: A Marble Hornets Story. Is it a bad found footage film or is it the next Paranormal Activity (a movie this one has a whole lot in common with, so much in fact, you could say it was a rip-off)? Read on to see what the verdict is…
RUN-TIME: 92 min
ASPECT RATIO: 1.78:1
AUDIO: 5.1 Dolby Digital
SUBTITLES: English, Spanish
PRODUCTION DATE: 2015
RELEASE DATE: Aug 4th, 2015
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.
A local news crew is investigating abandoned houses, when they come upon a house formally owned by a family that looks to have been hastily abandoned during the night, with everything still there. The crew find some old tapes in the basement, and the cameraman, Milo (Chris Marquette,) begins to go through them for possibly clues as to why they left so suddenly. Whilst browsing the footage, Milo starts to see that the father was videotaping a mysterious tall man in a suit watching him. The man, known as The Operator, played by veteran character actor Doug Jones, can only be seen through the video camera lens. As Milo starts to unravel the mystery, he starts seeing The Operator through his own camera and becomes branded with a mysterious mark that means he could potentially be next to die. He seeks the help of his fellow co-workers, who at first don’t believe him, but quickly start to once they too get marked. As they seek out answers, The Operator starts getting closer and closer…
When I first set my eyes on the trailer for Always Watching, I assumed it was going to be a super low budget affair, but I was pleasantly surprised to see that it was way more than just that. It’s actually got some known talent in the movie, with my favorite being the super hot maid from American Horror Story, Alexandra Breckenridge. Also, any movie that has a cameo from The Tall Man himself, Angus Scrimm, is a winner in my book.
As for the movie, it definitely has a familiar feel to it if you’ve ever seen any of the Paranormal Activity movies. You got the multi-camera setup shots, the mysterious glitches in the video feed, and violent possessions. The only thing that sets this movie apart from the aforementioned series, is the entity known as The Operator. I assumed before watching the movie that it was based on Slender Man, but in fact, The Operator is actually an entirely different thing. Well, not that different, but different enough. It doesn’t have long tentacle arms, it doesn’t just feed on children, and it has the ability to possess people to do it’s bidding. Pretty freaky stuff, and you’ve got to give credit to the YouTube series Marble Hornets for coming up with some great ideas. After watching the movie, I really need to check out this series, as I hear some pretty good things about it. You can watch it here if you’re interested as well.
I do have a couple issues with the movie. It drags a bit during the middle half, as we already know what is going on, but Milo has to explain everything to his co-workers, who at first think he is crazy. See, that’s where one problem lies. During the beginning of the film, they all see the videotapes and note the weird being that is appearing on them and they can’t explain what is happening. One of them says he is going to investigate some more about it, but we never hear back on what he finds out. Once Milo starts seeing The Operator, he panics and tells them and they immediately think he is crazy. Why they would think that is beyond me, as they have proof with the tapes. Also, can people not figure out how to rewind previous footage? I mean, there is several points in the movie that would clearly show some freaky shit is going down, but they don’t bother going through it to see what is happening. Also, I have no idea how you can stop The Operator from hunting you down once you invite him into your life. Milo thinks he has an idea, which comes suddenly and randomly out of left field, but I don’t see why he thought it would work.
Sorry, I’m kind of ranting here. Always Watching: A Marble Hornets Story can easily be seen as a rip-off, but I think it does something a bit new and fresh, and there was a few times I had some goosebumps, which is a big plus in my book. The fans of the original stories might not like it as much, as I’m sure there are things that are done that the hardcore base would not agree with, but as I said before, I know nothing about it and just enjoyed the movie for what it was, a found footage ghostly adventure.
Anchor Bay has chosen to release Always Watching on DVD only, so not much can be said for the audio and video. The video isn’t terrible, but with it being purposely made to look bad at points, it’s hard to judge it. The audio comes in 5.1 Dolby Digital, and everything is loud and clear. There is no music in this movie, which makes things pretty tense at times, but the distortion and weird sound effects of The Operator sound pretty nice. Sadly, no special features included.
DVD SPECIAL FEATURES
Always Watching: A Marble Hornets Story isn’t going to win any awards for looking original, but the story included is an interesting, creepy tale. I enjoyed it for the most part, even when it dragged a little or things were confusing for no good reason. Don’t pass judgement on this one just because you think it looks like a cheap flick, as it’s a good time well spent. Fans and non fans of the Slender Man / The Operator mythos should be more than happy to give it a spin.