So a little while ago I did a review of Always Watching: A Marble Hornets Story (link here). The movie was, at best, average, and, at worst, a crappy money-grubbing product with the Marble Hornets title slapped on there to get some poor sucker to buy it.
Anyway, it’s the subtitle of this movie that I want to talk about. “A Marble Hornets Story.” This implies some relation to Marble Hornets. However, as far as I know, there is none. Well, maybe some easter egg, but that’s it. And, I’m sorry, if you’re emblazoning the title of this movie with the phrase “A Marble Hornets Story,” you better have more of a connection.
After watching this movie, I decided to rewatch Marble Hornets, to see if there was some connection I missed or something. Plus, I wanted to see granddaddy of Slender Man media. Quite a bit of Slender Man’s lore came from this series, from the Operator symbol to proxies. While many ARGs and such would try and be like Marble Hornets, none really ever could. They're not bad; in fact, a few of them try taking off from the original mythos in the SomethingAwful forums (most notably TribeTwelve. Remember when Noah visits his grandfather who saw Slender Man in World War 2? That’s from the original mythos), and almost all of them add something new to the table. But none of them can be Marble Hornets.
However, as I’m rewatching Marble Hornets, I have to ask myself: is it really that good? And how does it compare to the movie it’s based off of? Well, I intend to answer these questions that no one but me asked, and am bringing you along for the ride, dear reader.
So, let’s go with the easier question first: how does Marble Hornets compare to the movie “based” off of it?
Oh, it’s much better.
Now, in a way, this is sort of an unfair comparison. Marble Hornets is an eight hour web series that continued for a few years and makes up quite a bit of the established Slender Man canon. Always Watching is a ninety minute movie that…exists.
The main reason why Marble Hornets works better than Always Watching is simply because of the care and passion put into it. You can tell the creators of Marble Hornets loved what they were doing and wanted to do the best they could with this. You can tell the creators of Always Watching just wanted to make a quick buck.
“But wait!” you cry out. “Didn’t the creators of Marble Hornets work on Always Watching?” Well, yes. According to IMDB, Marble Hornets and Always Watching did employ Joseph DeLage and Troy Wagner, the writers of Marble Hornets. Of course, the screenplay for Always Watching was written by Ian Shorr, writer of movies like Rigged and Splinter, both of which have ratings of 5.7 and 6.1 out of 10, respectively. Maybe DeLage and Wagner did work on the script for the movie. Like, the first draft. Maybe Ian Shorr did the rewrites. You know, the rewrites that make up the screenplay. In other words, the first draft, or couple of drafts, by DeLage and Wagner might’ve been incredibly true to the source material, but subsequent rewrites by Shorr might’ve given us what we got. This is all speculation on my part, because there’s nothing online or on the DVD regarding the making of the movie. The DVD only has the movie, scene selection, and setup. No commentary, no behind the scenes stuff, nothing. Hell, I tried looking up draft scripts for this movie. The only thing I found was some Slender Man script written by someone named Curtis James Coffey, who had no hand in making this movie. So, again, I can really only speculate. Maybe Shorr wrote something good and DeLage and Wagner fucked it up. Maybe there was some unnamed asshole who fucked it up. Who knows?
Anyway, sorry for the long tangent regarding the script and making of the movie. The point is, it feels like it was made just for a quick buck. I know movies are made, for the most part, to make money. I can assure you that producers don’t pump money into a Marvel movie to please fanboys. That being said, Marvel movies, for the most part, have people who genuinely care about the source material and want to make a decent adaptation of the material while making it something unique.
Actually, speaking of comics and such, let me mention another thing regarding the movie and online series: the movie’s version of Slender Man is almost nothing like Marble Hornet’s version. This irritates me because, first, for a movie that has the subtitle “A Marble Hornets Story,” you think they’d give more of a damn about Marble Hornets. The second reason has to do with comics and movies, in a way. See, you know fanboys get angry at a superhero movie because it’s not like the comics, or has some minor change from the comics? Well, there is a reason why it is they get mad, and it’s not because they’re nitpicky assholes. Well, that’s part of it. The other part of it is that a movie gets seen by more people than a comic. As such, the representations of these characters put on screen will basically be the general public’s understanding of these characters. So, fanboys will have to deal with people crowing about how The Amazing Spider-Man is, and how hot Peter Parker is even though that totally goes against the basic idea of the character. People see this version, while the version you love is completely ignored by the general public.
In other words, the movie is an adaptation and should represent the source material in order to correctly convey it to a larger audience rather than just bullshitting it and spreading lies and idiocy.
Hence my problem with Always Watching. While Always Watching was probably seen a bit less than Marble Hornets (I actually have no idea. IMDB has no information about the movie’s box office performance, even though it technically wasn’t a direct-to-DVD movie. It actually had a limited theatrical release on May 15 of 2015, which was around the same time that Avengers: Age of Ultron and Mad Max: Fury Road came out. So it probably didn’t do too well in the box office), it was still most likely seen by some people. Admittedly, most of them probably like Marble Hornets, but maybe some didn’t, and came out of the theater thinking this is Slender Man and/or Marble Hornets. Or maybe they just came out incredibly confused.
I’m not trying to be snobby about this; I just don’t like the spread of misinformation passing as actual information.
“Wait!” you cry once more. “Isn’t Marble Hornets somewhat inaccurate to the original Slender Man mythos?” While that’s technically true, the medium of Slender Man’s canon isn’t as clear cut as, say, Spider-Man’s medium of choice. Spider-Man’s a comic book character (though with Spider-Verse, Spider-Men from various Spider-Man TV series were brought in, but I digress), and his main canon is in the comics. If they make changes to it in the comics, that’s somewhat ok since this is where the story is created, not the movie adaptation.
Slender Man, though, has stories told about him in stories, videos, and games. Not all stories regarding Slender Man are canon, or else the character of Dorkpool would technically be part of the Slender Man canon. Really, in my opinion, the canon of Slender Man mainly comes from community interpretation. Marble Hornets is part of the Slender Man canon because most of the Creepypasta fanbase/community decided it’s that way. As such, this is the material that should be adapted. Since Always Watching doesn’t really adapt this, I’m mad.
(Of course, one could make the argument that Slender Man’s canon is also up to personal interpretation. After all, one can consider Ticci Toby part of the Slender Man canon, and there’s really no real way to say that’s bullshit. However, the generally accepted canon is up to community and majority interpretation due to the nature of how stories about Slender Man are conveyed)
Now, it may seem like I’m blindly praising Marble Hornets, making it out to be the be all and end all of Slender Man canon, ARGs, and stories. But it’s not. And here’s where I go onto my second originally posed question: is Marble Hornets objectively good, or is it only good because of what it contributed to the Slender Man canon?
Before I answer this question, I’d like to provide a little disclaimer: I haven’t exactly finished the series yet. I’m only entry 70 something, I think. If my opinion changes when I finish the series, I’ll add a little something at the end of this explaining my new opinion. If not, take this as my opinion.
Now, I personally like Marble Hornets. I like the story, I like the ideas, I like the characters. However, I will admit, there are quite a few flaws, and I’d like to mention them.
First, and most glaring: this series can sometimes be incredibly boring. Part of the reason I haven’t exactly finished it yet is because it can be a chore going through about ten minutes of some people walking around a forest doing nothing. That’s really a big portion of the series.
Another big portion of the series is this formula:
- People are walking or doing something with the camera
- People stop doing the thing/ the camera gets dropped/ people stop paying attention to the camera and leave it in an empty room
- Camera gets glitchy, and Slender Man or a proxy shows up in a jump scare
Don’t tell me you haven’t seen this. It gets pretty obvious after a bit.
Actually, speaking of jump scares, the series relies somewhat heavily on them, and I don’t find them, or the series as a whole, scary. I find it more interesting than anything.
Another flaw would be, in a way, convenience. Basically, Jay finds a lot of tapes pretty easily. Oh look, there’s some tapes in the safe. Oh look, Jay fell in a hole that has some tapes Alex tried burning. Oh look, there’s a random tape in the tower Alex (was it Alex? It was Alex or Tim, I forget) sort of mentioned on the back of some Slender-style note. I honestly feel like Slender Man is just playing with Jay, and making people leave the tapes around just to have Jay keep looking into this or something, but it just feels way too convenient at times.
However, that being said, finding those tapes makes this series literally found footage, since a good portion of it is just footage found by Jay in some way. So kudos to literally being found footage.
That’s really it for the bad. The rest is pretty good. And there’s one part that I really, really love: ToTheArk. I’m not sure if this is technically part of Marble Hornets, but it’s mentioned in some entries, so I feel I need to talk about it. I absolutely adore the ToTheArk videos. Where Marble Hornets can feel long, drawn out, and boring as all hell, the ToTheArk videos are quick, creepy, creative, and all around bizarre. I love how weird they are, and I think they add just the right touch of weirdness to be cool and are plot relevant enough to be necessary. Those videos are, in my opinion, the best part of the series.
The rest of the series, as I said, is well done. The characters are decently written, the ideas are interesting, and the series makes use of its low budget by making it be found footage. Honestly, this low budget web series is a lot better than some big budget movies.
So, objectively and subjectively, one can say Marble Hornets is good. Not perfect, but good. One can also say Always Watching: A Marble Hornets story has a lying subtitle and isn’t good, which I’ve done multiple times throughout this post.
But that’s what I think. What do you guys think? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.