Remember the day when found footage films were actually unique and original? I’m talking about The Blair Witch Project, or even the first Paranormal Activity movie. I walked out of both of those shrugging my shoulders, thinking “they ain’t all that,” only to be haunted for weeks afterwards by both of them. I literally lost sleep thanks to what lurked in the shadows of those films.
Though released years apart, both left their mark on the horror genre, leading to more and more films utilizing the hand held video style of filmmaking. While there have been some solid ones to be sure (Monsters, REC and Willow Creek are all stand-outs), so many forgettable ones continue to come and go, often boring and lacklustre.
Unfortunately, Always Watching: A Marble Hornets Story is one of those guilty parties.
Based on a YouTube series revolving around the myth of the Slenderman, a new horror icon found in a series of video games, Always Watching revolves around a news team in a small town that discovers a series of video tapes depicting a frightening figure haunting a family that has since disapeared. As their investigation continues, the team soon discovers their own lives are now in jeopardy at the hands of the mysterious Operator (Doug Jones).
From the moment the film started, my eyes were rolling. Here we go again, I thought. Another one of “these” sorts of films. Quick cuts, strange sounds, and someone who takes their camera everywhere they go; in this case, it’s tv cameraman Milo (Chris Marquette), himself unlikeable and creepy, with an obsession with his anchor colleague Sara (played by the film’s only saving grace, the talented Alexandra Breckenridge). You’ve seen all of these tropes before, but in far better films. And does anyone really have a camera running 24/7? It makes sense in a film like Paranormal Activity, where there’s an explanation for actions. In Always Watching, the audience is simply supposed to accept the style for what it is. And I just couldn’t.
While I was watching Always Watching, I kept waiting for something to happen. Anything to happen. And nothing ever really does. The worst thing you ever want to say about a film is that it’s boring. Even a bad movie can keep you entertained. Not this one. While the potential for a great tale involving the Slenderman is absolutely possible, Always Watching ain’t it, though. You’d be better off making your own found footage film rather than watching this one.
On second thought, please don’t. Let’s call a moratorium on the genre, shall we?