By: Addison Wylie
There’s nothing new in Always Watching: A Marble Hornets Story that you haven’t already seen in other found footage horrors. See if you can keep score at home: a small news crew ([REC]) are stringing together interviews and B-roll for a project (The Blair Witch Project), when suddenly a box of abandoned videocassette tapes containing disturbingly transfixing footage is discovered (name that Paranormal Activity sequel).
A looming creature – evoking infamous Internet legends of Slender Man – is awoken and begins to stalk the obsessed videographer. Surveillance equipment is set-up and scenes featuring first-person perspectives of nighttime wandering ensue as the disturbed cameraman is investigating creaks and shadows around his house. There’s a trip to a psych ward (The Devil Inside), jump scares galore, and one of those ominous cliff-hanger endings that drive found footage naysayers up the wall.
Now, with all that said, Always Watching is actually quite likeable. In fact, I was wrapped up in its whirring creepiness the entire time. It probably won’t convert those who want to burn the horror sub-genre to the ground, but this is an ideal pick for those who seek out and eat up found footage flicks.
James Moran’s frightening film is basically a version of The Blair Witch Project where the viewer often has a clear view of the monster. The point to The Blair Witch Project‘s ambiguity was to express how scary a viewer’s imagination can be. Always Watching just wants to give the audience a bunch of visual jolts, to which showing the faceless lurker works in its favour. Especially if it suddenly appears in the woods, behind a door thats open ajar, or in plain daylight as it warps closer towards our characters.
Ian Shorr’s screenplay also cleans up recurring plot holes that sometimes litter these first-person movies. For example: the creature can only be seen through a camera’s transmission. The tape doesn’t necessarily have to be recording, but if these characters want to stay safe, they have to keep the camera on. We believe this after movie goers witness what life is like when the camera is turned off for a night. Also, being a news crew stacked with available equipment, this takes care of the “invulnerable battery” issue.
Since Moran wants to keep the film at a certain level of intel, context and motives are kept at a bare minimum. We see flashbacks through the forgotten tapes of how the faceless being used mind control to entrap his victims, but that’s as much background as the audience receives. There’s no tell-all scientific lecture about how to defeat it, no historical relevance of its creation, and no online specialist to supply answers. Only video featuring normal activities as this terrifying fellow menaces in the backdrop – predicting all of your bad decisions. If The Blair Witch Project showed the extremes of the mind, Moran’s film is a courteous reminder that it’s still scary to endure an inexplicable terrifying creature.
Always Watching: A Marble Hornets Story stays consistent as a campfire story, and it sticks in your head when the lights go out. The film is here to scare, and scare it does.