For some reason I mentioned, confidently, that Always Watching: A Marble Hornets Story was not only a bad movie, but bad among the bad.
This instantly-available indie horror movie based on a popular internet series somehow proved more professionalism guarantees nothing in terms of quality.
Then something told me it required a reviewing. As in a second viewing. Not a review. This is not a movie review SIX AND HALF STARS OUT OF SIXTEEN, check me out, Metacritic!
But, since I’ve recently been wanting to try this out…formatting!
Re-Watching Always Watching: A My-ble Hornets Story (some spoilers)
So Always Watching is not found footage.
To speak of expectations, again, I would have assumed the spin-off of a found footage series would most likely also be found footage. Going into the movie, I figured the plot of “a news crew is attacked by Slenderman” meant a news crew had stumbled upon a monster, died, and then someone found their footage.
Like Blair Witch, the movie would masquerade as a “documentary” of “what happened to these missing individuals.”
Always Watching may certainly appear to be found footage—the main character, a cameraman named Milo, is known for being a man of his vocation and he films everything, including stalker-shots of his co-worker and one-time fling who is a maroon-haired reporter lady. The movie is mostly made of the video he recorded.
Every shot and angle in the movie has a “source”, either from Milo’s camera, the TV station’s security footage, or a family camcorder.
This probably sounds like it is found footage.
However, this footage is never presented as anything pseudo-nonfictional as a whole. No details are given in the form of text, disclaimers, pamphlets, or graphs. It’s just a normal movie with different photography techniques. The only person who did any editing was apparently named Wendy, and Wendy is a real person, not an unseen or implied character.
In found footage, the movie itself must be part of the fiction and, in this case, the movie was not within the story at all. Like when I griped for minutes about the seemingly unrelated opening sequence. I had a lot of complaints regarding this sort of thing all the way through my first viewing, during which I was fairly distracted.
I have seen one of the Paranormal Activities and it did the same “So-and-so is carrying the camera now” thing without also pretending to be a documentary or a scandalous cable news program, so this might be the norm now. I wouldn’t know. Either way, Always Watching was edited to be an entirely normal movie.
Why do they bother to reference the camera if they don’t do the same for the finished film? What is it supposed to be, anyway? Is it a feature-length documentary prior to postproduction titles and narration? A fan edit for increased scariness? Did the sixth member of Totheark throw it together on his or her woodland moviola?
Only these make any goddamn sense if Always Watching is found footage instead of “found footage-style” or (I just sighed) “pseudo-found footage”.
a. There are ideas present which are actually interesting and make sense.
Horror is one of the genres with “demanded results”, and must always be scaring the viewer in either deep or cheap ways.
One of my favorite things about the genre is that the delivered scares can be nicely tied into themes and character, or used to make a point.
Night of the Living Dead is about how people would rather be correct than alive and will sometimes kill or be killed before moving past preconceptions.
A Nightmare on Elm Street and Rosemary’s Baby are both stories of getting blamed for our own traumatic experiences, or just general disbelief, though they handle them quite differently.
Something really great is how horror movies can mean something new and exciting for each individual seeing it. The best ones seem to all have a deeper meaning, at least.
b. How does all that in any way relate to Always Watching: An Always Watching Story?
It, too, like these grantedly much-fucking-better films, has a point behind the frights.
In my opinion, Movie Slenderman symbolizes the manifestation of insanity in people who never suspected they could end up being insane or doing insane things.
Cameraman Milo, the “Slender-contagion” in this case, is a stalker, which is something only crazy people can be, right? He eventually says he never thought he’d do anything so shitty. His reasoning, perhaps ultimately irrelevant, never accounted for anything like that.
He never thought it could happen to him. He never thought he could do that to anyone.
Milo’s Slenderman is the slow realization he has done something…monstrous.
Same with the blonde-and-buff producer and Miss Burgundy, who are respectively prone to violent outbursts and substance abuse. The white-middle-class-suburban-family with 2.5 children are also subjected to unusual circumstances normally reserved for only the crazies.
It’s not unexpected things done to them, it’s what they do themselves. Those are a few unusually interesting things for what is probably Prepackaged Horror.
c. But that doesn’t “mean” shit, does it?
Unlike the classics, however, Always Watching isn’t scary or good apart from these themes. When Slenderman shows up and the video skips, it’s underwhelming, almost like they didn’t intend for it to be jarring or disturbing, or anything other than sudden.
And fake jump scares outnumber real ones (including non-jump). It wasn’t even a close contest.
Aside from what their madnesses could reflect, the characters don’t do much to warrant the audience’s empathy or time. A dog will probably be the chosen favorite of most, which has probably been noted verbatim many times for many other films.
The question I find myself asking is how the audience is supposed to connect with themes when the “action” does actually nothing to engage their attention. Horror fans fervently expect to be scared, or they at least have something similar in mind when they press that play button or the more crucial one which says “Buy Movie $6.99”.
Always Watching sort of relies on secondary means of horror by posing a few moral quandaries. But this, as I said, doesn’t lead to a good movie, unassisted.
It wouldn’t matter if nobody believed those distraught teens if Freddy Krueger wasn’t such a formidable villain who oozed a green substance and sported fucking daggers on a grungy ol’ work glove!
With that said, I am not suggesting this movie fails solely because it differs from the basis, or that it doesn’t have any little touches to appreciate. Its problems go beyond that and there are some.
2. Brings up something else.
I can’t say I have ever seen a movie wherein I have noticed such artistic intent and then thought the rest of the movie was crap.
It could be because someone who understands the importance of meaning would also understand the importance of providing a properly entertaining story in which to put it.
It could be more movies are like this, and I have never started half-analyzing them since they didn’t satisfy the more basic requirements of effective filmmaking. Or it could be all in my head. I don’t really know!
The issue with this movie, especially in comparison to the original “Marble Hornets” series, goes back to what everyone asks, right when the end credits begin—did I like the movie? Was it money well spent? I’m just a little unsure of my own answer to that.
(Also of note…the credits say the movie’s copyright is for 2008, but it was made last year. I’m not sure if this is a mistake, like somebody copy-pasted it from an earlier production and then forgot to change the year. I’d bring up alternative/in-story/meta possibilities but the events of the film take place in 2012.)
3. Anyway if this movie was better, it’d be less interesting, or just worse.
No matter what, I wouldn’t have thought so much about Always Marbling: A Gory Story Glory if it was even somewhat visually irksome. I probably would have just mentioned that it is weird how film students had a movie made about their ideas and they weren’t the ones who made it.
Luckily, or not, James Moran’s apparent directorial debut is fairly distinct for being a weird mixture of the bad and the good.
Meaning makes fiction interesting and worthwhile. No doubts there. Meaning doesn’t require a budget, and it can be found anywhere, in any footage, in any genre or medium. So I don’t feel stupid writing so goddamn much about a movie based on a creepypasta since I think there was underlying symbolism behind the story, and perhaps only symbolism.
But this movie sucks, no matter what!
Art can certainly exist without meaning, but can there be appreciative, higher-quality meaning in lower-quality art? And what if there is? What does one call it?
Was this money well spent? For me…I was bound to see it sometime.
I’d also bring up whether the film had any involvement with the T.H.A.C. breakup, but that’s none of my business, since it’s their business…ha…ha. Ha!
This makes four posts…
The victory is all mine! The dashes will do what I say—yes—they—will—now—I—win—take—that—futility!
But, really, just like this movie, I’ve had worse times, so maybe I should thank you.