Standing Right Behind Me

Way to go, piffs!

“Piff”—the term I have recently and happily espoused which means “a YouTube series with ARG elements”. An ARG is an “advanced/alternate/augmented/associative/advertisement reality game” or the subject of my previous shambling blog post.

(I have realized “Piff” could also be an acronymic anagram of “First-Person Internet Film” and that makes me like it that much more.)

Piffs are weird, cheap, and more reflective of our societies than it may seem. But, apart from that, they can be genuinely amusing, or guilty pleasures! I KNOW WHAT THAT TERM MEANS!

From the gated forum community of Something Awful emerged “The Slender Man”, which is probably an alien in a suit and tie. In these fictional stories, now an informal or collective canon, the monster has been actively kidnapping children for multiple centuries and will be the eternally peeping tom.

It teleported more into the public consciousness through “Marble Hornets” (a piff) and then that lead to the computer game PewDiePie played, and then the Swedish multimillionaire game-playing-dude caused “Marble Hornets” to get more popular still and the loop probably continues to this day.

Sadly, Slenderman again entered the news when two Wisconsin preteens attempted to murder their friend, citing the online stories as motivation. This event, which the victim survived by a millimeter, sufficiently sullies creepypastas and internet-based horror stories and their would-be frivolity and occasional patheticness, at least for me, at least sometimes.

I occasionally think of the victim, twelve years old when it happened, and the process of growing up. Getting older is hard enough. I can’t imagine having to go through all the regular crap after barely living through attempted murder committed by friends.

Awful shit, but it’s an isolated incident, no matter how shitty or awful.

Are creepypastas harmful to our youth? Probably not. Are they good for our youth? They’re a lot better than other things. Are they all that good for anything else? Maybe, maybe not?

Some people quite like them, and they also like the Slenderman piffs.


After “Marble Hornets”, Slenderman became the de facto villain of countless other internet series, each of which are deliberately spooky.

The main overarching problem I have with piffs is the inexorable fact they are not exactly nuanced productions from quality filmmakers, and are basically like reading blogs instead of books. For the most part. There are exceptions to this!

(My blog is not an exception to this.)

However, The Blair Witch Project wasn’t exactly revolutionary cinema (it was really just basic math—profit is the difference between revenue and expenses) and that movie started this whole new genre, essentially. Don’t have expensive equipment or a heavily-perfected screenplay? Great, since piffs and found footage get better by being worse! These are “real people” who are “not professionals”, and we can’t lift the veil of pseudononfiction…

But, now, if things can be presented in a certain way for the sake of frights, then it’s okay for piffs, so I am told and don’t agree with. I have always seen what you’ve been trying to do to me, found footage, and I don’t like it.

Who edited the tape of the film crew in Blair Witch? Why did they purposely cut it to be tense and maddening?


I should remember people asked if The Blair Witch was real when it first came out. It caught the attention of moviegoers by being the first of its kind to get nationwide exposure. (I should also remember it caused a trend of making people throw up in the theater.)

The “first-person” narrative of found footage is usually presented as what another person has come across in a yard sale, vacated warehouse, cellar or attic, suspicious eBay listing, neglected church basement, or mom-and-pop video store imprisoning the vengeful soul of a Confederate soldier…


Piffs take it a little further and actually utilize the first-person narrative by definition—the characters themselves are filming and editing the content. Just about everything becomes a character choice, and should be digested as such. I would think.

So why doesn’t Jay from “Marble Hornets” remove the white noise, and why does he end videos with ambiguous moments or unaddressed questions? Why does he insist on dramatic pausing during his usage of impersonal bold text? Why does he never attempt to alleviate our worries?

Oh, that’s right, it’s scarier that way. Sure, fine, all right!

There’s value in understatement, but piffs don’t exactly do that. Not only do they employ these somewhat sneaky methods, but they’re practically devoid as a result, and this shallowness works in their favor only if one decides against questioning it, which I cannot seem to do.

Could be just me.

The question of “Why are they recording this?” in found footage will never be sufficiently answered because satisfying the condition aversely affects entertainment and our fearful expectations. Piffs, alternatively, have an extra plaguing query along with all previous skepticisms regarding this style of cinematography—”And then why did they post it on YouTube?”

Invariably, piff protagonists will expose a desire to make their experiences known, should they wind up dead or something (I do not know of any piffs where this actually happens, by the way). Slenderman fighters can also wield their camcorder to detect when the monster is nearby.

All that gets a little less explicable when illegal acts start taking place, perpetrated by the same folks publishing them online, which happens more than once in more than one of them.

Suspension of disbelief, motif, motivation, protagonist…nope, it doesn’t make sense. The issue isn’t the supernatural factor. It’s very much the normal-natural one.


Found footage, ironically, depends more on naturalness than other genres of fiction (these are “real people” who are “not professionals”), and perhaps even more than some reality television programs and certain styles of documentaries (which is pretty funny). When amateur actors read lines from a lackluster script, or when intentional editing techniques are done for ostensible horror, then I sort of have to rub my forehead and shrug.

It makes me wonder exactly how much a low or zero price tag can buy. All piffs are free, aside from the ads. By these, I am only reminded these people are getting paid for their work, and I’ll restate my support of this.

These webseries attract viewers. That continues to be a fine thing! Sure, I wonder if they could be making better, more authentic short films or miniseries…but they might as well while they’re young and haven’t a budget.

This is where I detach myself from totally supporting them.

Slenderman piffs probably cannot be what the videomakers decide to do for an extended period of time if they wish to create and work with film (and it might appear they realize this, too). If they can come up with a good story about the rather mundane Slender Man, they can probably be doing something more original.

In some respects, however, the Slenderpiffs have formed a new elemental horror subgenre along the same lines as Zombie, Werewolf, Vampire, and Freddy Krueger, with certain viewers primarily seeking certain types of monsters.

“Slender Man 7: Slendy’s Summer Break”…

Horror’s different, which I understand, and not every piff uses the demon in formalwear, I know. But most of the popular ones do, probably for the drawing factor of the “slenderman” search results.

The monster itself, however, has become uninteresting. Oftentimes these series will have to come up with their own twist on the premise, incorporating an element special only to them but still somewhat related to their peers and classmates.

Masky, The Observer, maybe a cult or two…all of them do it.

The other question I ask is if the whole genre is constraining the possibly talented people behind these videos. This might be the best piffs can get, especially considering the necessity of making all the footage sensible, which makes it less scary almost automatically. Limitation breeds innovation, yes. This makes me wonder if piffs and ARGs are still unsolved and untapped. What else can be done with them? Can anything else be done with them?


Traditional horror can just do more and get away with it. The directors can show whatever the hell they feel like showing—they don’t explain why the camera operator isn’t running away and tripping like all the characters are. It’s not necessarily logical, but it’s sort of related to logic. They can be scarier and have more capabilities in expressing themes and ideas.


…what exactly is that crawly feeling after watching some YouTube horror stuff and then everything around seems…my god, unnerving? Most of the time, I’m not ruffled at all by piffs or creepypastas while watching or reading, but then I’ll step out and swear I hear something moving in the bushes. It happens surprisingly often!

“It’s just a movie” has been told to antsy children for years now. Perhaps there’s an odd psychological benefit to going through the newer technological side of the medium, as our elders cannot reassure us that it is only make-believe.

Another thing piffs have going for them is the side-by-side tale-of-the-tape between “Marble Hornets” and its direct-to-fucking-video-spin-off Always Watching: A Marble Hornets Story, which was probably the worst found footage movie I have ever seen.

YouTube probably makes these stories better. Viewers can feel like the ones finding the footage. They might ask themselves if it is real once or twice. They might even play along at home!

Would Scream work if Sidney Prescott was vlogging about it the whole time? Probably not. So format does play a role, whether or not it’s an excuse.

Some people only want to watch characters they don’t like get repeatedly knifed to death.

Perhaps the Slenderman piffs will eventually be indicative of a time period, either fondly remembered or mocked during panel shows. They could also be the shallow end of a larger swimming pool. They could very well be a golden age of internet horror, for all I know.

Either way, they will definitely have their cameras with them.


I don’t mind doing this, but still don’t see the point…75% completed!


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I'm from Minnesota. The YouTube channel called "Moose in the Middle" is not me. That is someone else and I should have checked, but that never happened.

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