So this Halloween, I decided to do two things. First, wear an incredibly well-fitting Spider-Man costume from the first Spider-Man movie that looks really cool. And second, while in said costume, watch the movie Always Watching. For those who don’t know, Always Watching is a movie about Slender Man and supposedly based on Marble Hornets, despite having little to no connections to MH. In fact, this Slender Man (or the Operator) has some powers that I’ve never really seen in any iteration of Slender Man.
I’ve tried finding some behind the scenes stuff regarding this film that might clear some things about the movie up (like how this is supposedly based on MH despite having little or nothing to do with MH), but oddly enough I’ve found nothing about it. Wikipedia, the Slender Man Wiki, and IMDB have nothing regarding the making of the movie. It’s a shame, really. I’m sure there are some rather interesting stories regarding this movie’s creation.
So, how is the movie? Personally, I’d say, “Eh.” Let me show you why. (Note: there will be spoilers)
The film starts with a guy and a girl running in the woods. Since it’s a Slender Man movie, you can guess why. Now, something to note here: this film is a found footage movie. Personally, I’m not the biggest fan of found footage because I’m always thinking, “Why are these schmucks recording this?” It takes me out of the movie. It doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy found footage movies or series; I enjoyed Chronicle and most of the Slender Man ARGs I’ve seen. Still, that’s always bothered me.
In the film’s defense, they do provide a reason as to why it’s found footage, and I’ll get to it in a bit.
Anyway, these two are running through the woods. The guy gets killed, but the woman makes it to the car. However, apparently Slender Man can reanimate the dead in this universe, as the dead guy takes the girl out of the car.
I personally like this sequence. It’s kind of creepy, and feels very like the kind of thing that should be in a Slender Man movie. However, there is a problem: this has nothing to do with the rest of the movie. These characters don’t reappear, and aren’t all that relevant to the plot. If you cut this scene, the movie wouldn’t lost all that much.
After that scene, we go to a New Year’s party. It’s here we meet two of our main characters: Milo and Sara. Milo is a camera guy, and Sara is planning to be a news anchor or reporter or something. Sara also has an addiction to prescription drugs, as we can tell by this scene that Milo’s recording for some reason. Yes, let Milo have evidence showing Sara, someone aspiring to be a reporter, doing something not exactly legal. Blackmail, anyone?
It doesn’t go that route. After this part, we see Milo stalking and recording Sara. Keep in mind, he’s our protagonist.
After we see Milo stalking Sara, we’re then introduced to our third main character, Charlie, or, as Milo calls him, “an Ivy League douchebag.” Which, yeah, he kind of is.
The three do a story regarding foreclosed/repossessed houses, and it’s here two things are apparent: Charlie wants to get in Sara’s pants, and Milo’s kind of annoying. The second thing is mainly because Milo had a one-night stand with Sara (or a few week relationship, as is mentioned later. Either way, it didn’t last long) and still has a thing for her. Naturally, he’s immediately jealous of Charlie, and makes snide comments under his breath. And they’re not even funny either.
During their investigation, the trio happens upon the home of the Whitlockes. Oddly enough, the home doesn’t seem foreclosed, just…abandoned. Light’s are still on, everything’s still there, but no one’s home. Upon listening to messages on the Whitlocke’s answering machine, they find that the Whitlockes haven’t contacted anyone for a while.
Milo checks the basement, and, while making annoying comments, finds a bunch of Operator symbols on the walls. And then Charlie jump scares him. I hate it when horror movies have a character fake out jump scare the audience. It’s lazy, cheap, and stupid. But yeah, that happens, Charlie laughs because that’s funny to him (as someone who knows a thing or two about comedy, I can safely say that it wasn’t funny to anyone else), and the two happen upon a bunch of tapes. They seem to be home movies, but the trio thinks that the tapes could be of some use.
They go back to the news station, where we see the station’s logo. Oddly enough, it looks like the upside down logo of a local news station I watch. This isn't an exaggeration either; I think they literally took the logo of my local news station and turned it upside down. Good job, guys.
Milo starts watching the tapes, then Sara comes in and the two argue. They both leave, and don’t notice a tape with Slendy.
The trio then begin an investigation. They find out the Whitlockes had a son named Jeremy, who disappeared. After his disappearance, Jeremy’s father, Dan, began carrying around a camera all the time. He’d call the cops complaining about some stalker living in the woods, but the police found nothing and figured Dan was a kook.
We then see Milo watching the tapes some more, and noticing Slendy. He shows this to Sara and Charlie, who come up with some theories, like Slendy being a Zodiac Killer copycat. Since this movie isn’t Zodiac, we all know that’s not true.
Milo continues watching the tapes, and finds a tape that shows Dan showing his wife, Rose, that Slendy can only be seen through a camera.
Now, I kind of like this idea for two reasons. First, it’s an interesting idea. A being who you can only see with a video camera? There are quite a few routes to go down with this. Secondly, it does give a reason as to why this film is found footage: they’re trying to spot Slendy.
The thing is, Slender Man never had this power. He just fucked up technology. This camera thing, and the power of reanimating the dead, are cool powers but aren’t ones Slendy had. Honestly, if you just changed the look, name, and symbols, then this movie could easily be about some other monster. And that, I think, is one of the movie’s biggest weaknesses. Sure, it has Slender Man. But in this movie, Slender Man could easily be replaced. It doesn’t feel exactly like a Slender Man movie, nor a tie-in to MH. It’s Slendy in name only.
Anyway, as Milo watched the tapes, the power in his house goes out (he was watching them at home, by the way). And here we get kind of a boring scene where Milo’s trying to get the power back on while Slendy fucks with him. Ok, I’ll admit, while this is Slender Man in name only, they did get one of Slender Man’s main traits down: he likes to fuck with people. Sure, he could immediately kill you, but instead he’ll stalk you and screw with you. Honestly, I’ve come to realize that Slender Man’s kind of an asshole.
Milo notices Slendy, both in his house and his lawn, so he drives to the Whitlocke’s house. There, he finds another tape and a music box falls down, playing a lullaby, because god forbid a horror movie not have a creepy lullaby. I know this isn’t a Creepypasta cliché, but it’s still a cliché nonetheless, and a lazy one at that.
Milo leaves, goes home, and sets up a projector in his house so he has a camera visual of his house. Admittedly, that’s kind of clever, but Slender Man still fucks with him. While adjusting the projector, Milo stands in front of it, having some of the image put on him. On the image on his stomach, Slender Man appears.
Seriously, that dude just loves fucking with people.
Anyway, Milo messes around with his projector while Slender Man just dicks around in kind of a boring scene, and then Milo goes to sleep. He awakens to find an Operator symbol branded onto him, and panics.
He goes to Sara’s house and finds the door locked. So, he knocks on the door, gets no response, and then takes Sara’s spare key and walks in. It’s there that he finds Charlie and Sara about to do the do. Naturally, no one’s happy about this, and Charlie and Sara are yelling as Milo tries explaining what just happened. Milo ends up leaving because no one’s listening at the two want him out. So, he goes shopping, and goes home to find Charlie and Sara there, watching his stalker cam.
Now, when we saw Milo stalking Sara, we all knew that Sara would end up finding out. Does this play a role in the movie at all? Well, not really. Outside of this scene, where everyone’s screaming at each other, there’s just a brief scene a bit later where Sara asks, “Milo, why in the fuck were you stalking me?” Milo says it was to make sure she went to her rehab meetings or whatever and then couldn’t stop stalking her, and that’s that. Really, the whole stalking thing is there to manufacture some temporary conflict, establish that Milo likes filming things, and then basically be forgotten. Much like the opening sequence of the couple in the woods, the entire “Milo stalks Sara” subplot could be cut and very little would be lost.
Anyway, while everyone’s yelling, Milo ends up convincing Sara and Charlie that Slendy is a real thing, and that Slendy is in that room. They pack up, and go on the road.
They end up at a motel, where Milo shows them a tape of Rose and Tara (Tara’s the Whitlock’s daughter, by the way), getting branded with the Operator symbol. Now, I’m pretty sure that around here is where Charlie gets the Operator symbol. I’m checking the Slender Man Wiki’s summary, and not finding any mention of when exactly it is, and my memory puts it around here. Anyway, Charlie gets marked, and his response is basically, “Oh shit.”
Meanwhile, Sara left to smoke to smoke during, and then comes back in. As this happens, Charlie gets a lead from an old friend about the possible location of the Whitlocks, and the trio sets off. During this trip, there’s a character moment between Charlie and Milo that seems to show that Charlie has some values or something, but is really setup for an insult a bit later. Also during this time, Milo is randomly controlled by Slendy.
The three end up at a new hotel, where Sara gets branded and decides it’s now the time to start popping pills again.
I find the reactions of each of these three to getting branded rather interesting. Milo panics and goes to Sara’s house; Charlie just says, “Oh, shit”; and Sara decides to pop pills once more. I feel like this says something about the characters.
Anyway, Milo’s pissed at Sara’s pill popping, and goes through her stuff looking for drugs. Charlie is pissed, and Milo insults him based on that character moment I mentioned earlier. Charlie, pissed, beats the shit out of Milo, though it was probably because Slendy made him.
Once again, Slender Man is kind of an asshole.
The three leave again, and during this trip, Sara suggests they shut off the cameras, since Slendy might just enjoy the attention. The other two, probably incredibly tired, say, “Yeah, sure,” and do so.
They soon find, after some sleep, that was a terrible idea, since they wake up to Milo’s dog (yeah, he has a dog, but the dog doesn’t do much) dead and branded with Operator symbols, and an Operator symbol drawn on condensation on the inside of the window. In other words, Slendy was in the car, and isn’t having any of that no camera bullshit.
The three end up at the burned down final residence of the Whitlocks. They find some basement, and see a video where Dan Whitlock suffocates his daughter with a pillow and appears to kill his wife at the behest of Hentai Man.
But wait, she isn’t dead! Shia Surprise! Rose kills Dan, and burns down the house.
Anyway, the three are bummed out when they find that the family is probably dead. But, once again, Rose is still alive, just chicken fried and in a mental institution. The three go there and interview Rose, where she says that Dan obsessed over Slendy, and after he died she was left alone. Then she realizes that our three…heroes(?) are being stalked and tells them to fuck off.
The three end up staying at a cabin in the woods (which always ends well). Charlie says the gang should split up, since they’d be safer. Milo, meanwhile, looks over some footage and realizes Rose’s Operator symbol is gone.
And then Slendy pops up, and scares the shit out of everyone. Milo decides it’s suicide time, and decides to just hang around…by a rope…from the ceiling….
He hung himself, in other words. Then the Operator disappears, and Milo’s bodies falls to the floor in kind of a funny manner.
But, as it turns it, Milo isn’t exactly dead. Well, he is, but Slendy reanimates him, and he kills Charlie and Sara, then dies again.
Now we go to some early footage of Dan and Rose Whitlock. Dan had just bought the camera, which apparently had “an art film of some kid getting chased around the woods by some tall guy.” We see that there are tapes marked with the Operator symbol.
This scene raises some questions for me. Like, was this tape supposed to be of the couple in the woods? Was it someone else? Wouldn’t whoever it was that made these tapes be dead and have the camera with them? Did somebody loot a corpse? Did someone just find the tapes and camera in the woods? If so, why did they sell it? This bothers me.
Anyway, after this scene, the credits roll, and, since this isn’t a Marvel movie, I didn’t check for an after credits scene. That being said, if there was an after credits scene, my guess is that it was Masky or Hoody just chilling around and Slender Man popping up and telling them about the Proxy Initiative or something.
So, that’s the movie. How was it? Well, again, I’m going with “eh.”
There were definite good things. Slender Man looked pretty cool in the movie, and the opening, scene, while it didn’t tie into the rest of the movie, was still a good way to open the film. Plus, the ability for Slender Man to only be seen with a camera does kind of make a found footage movie make sense.
Really, the two biggest weaknesses of the movie are its characters and how little it seems to tie in with Slender Man.
Regarding the characters, I really don’t care for or about them. Among our cast of characters is: some weird stalker, a handsome douchebag, and a prescription drug addict. Not much is done with them, and I don’t really identify with any of them or find them at all interesting. Most of the scenes revolving around them as characters instead of Slender Man cannon fodder don’t really leave much of an impact. The characters don’t grow naturally, they just have to stop bitching because Slender Man. None of the issues the characters have, be it Milo’s stalking addiction or Sara’s pill addiction, play much of a role. Regarding Milo’s stalking addiction, there is a way they could’ve made it work. Have Milo do his stalker thing, have there be some effects after Sara finds out, and then have him, towards the end of the film, in his darkest hour, think that maybe Slender Man wants to be filmed, and turn the camera off, ending the film and showing that he’s over his stalker addiction. If done right, this could be an interesting ending that leave audiences guessing as to what happens. If done wrong, it seems like a cop-out.
Point is, the characters aren’t all that interesting, and in the time spent waiting for Slendy to show up, it can be either boring or irritating dealing with them.
Actually, speaking of Slendy, I have to reiterate that this doesn’t feel like Slender Man. This doesn’t tie into MH, or really most of Slender Man’s canon. While I do think the ability to reanimate the dead and only be seen on camera are cool, those aren’t powers of Slender Man. Granted, they do keep the basic character and idea of Slender Man (asshole stalker and fear of the unknown, respectively), but the fact that he has new powers makes it seem like the creators didn’t care all that much about Slender Man, and instead just added some bullshit because scary. While the powers are, in a way, some of his powers taken to the next level, it’s less like giving Spider-Man organic webbing and more like a movie giving Batman organic batwings and the ability to hack computers with his mind.
Now, I should mentions that there are small connections to MH, most notably some missing persons poster at a gas station showing a character from MH. So, in theory, this should take place inside the same universe as MH. But, as far as I know, the events of this movie take place before and a bit during MH. So did Slendy lose the powers exclusive to this movie as MH began? Is this a different Slendy? I’m confused.
Now, you may be asking: is this scary? My answer: not really. It relies mostly on jump scares and audio/video glitches to scare the audience, which, personally, I don’t find scary. Then again, I didn’t watch this movie to get scared. I watched it because it had Slender Man.
Now, while this movie isn’t awful, it isn’t something great either. It’s, at best, a subpar representation of Slender Man (That being said, it’s not the worst piece of Slender Man related media you can buy. One day, I need to review the book Slender Man: Game of Myths). If you’re a fan of Slender Man, I would recommend checking it out, but only if you think you’ll be ok with changes to canon. If you’re looking for a scary movie, I’d look elsewhere.
But that’s what I think. What do you guys think? Was the movie good? Was the review good? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.