“Always Watching: A Marble Hornets Story” is a feature length Found Footage film following in the footsteps of the wildly popular YouTube series, “Marble Hornets,” that originally aired in 2009. While “Always Watching” takes place in the same universe established in the original Marble Hornets series, this latest iteration takes things in a different direction, removing any dependencies between the two films. “Always Watching” works perfectly fine as a standalone film, not requiring first watching the approximate nine hour Marble Hornet’s series as a precursor. I would go so far as to say that if you want to maximize the shock value and mystery surrounding “the Operator” (and get in a few extra jump scares), viewers may want to watch this standalone film first – either way, the film will be enjoyable and I don’t think this film necessarily spoils anything in the original Marble Hornets series.
When I first read that a Marble Hornets sequel was in development, I couldn’t help but wonder where the story would go considering where the Marble Hornets series had ended. All of my questions were answered quite satisfactorily after seeing “Always Watching.” While this film clearly takes place in the Marble Hornet’s universe, this is not Marble Hornets. “Always Watching” features an entirely new cast, but it’s not the cast that makes this film so different, it’s the antagonist (the Operator) that really differentiates “Always Watching” from Marble Hornets. Without giving away any of the film, the rules governing the Operator have changed a bit to suite the plot of this new story. The changes to The Operator’s behavior aren’t necessarily bad, if anything, the Operator is more impactful – but there are a few “Operator behaviors” that violate the paradigm established in the original web series. Again, these changes aren’t necessarily a bad thing, as it’s entirely possible that the Operator is simply displaying behavior not revealed during the first incarnation in Marble Hornets. The filmmakers have also taken the time to provide a healthy degree of fan service through the placement of Easter eggs that tie back to the original series.
Without giving away any of the film, the rules governing the Operator have changed a bit to suite the plot of this new story.
“Always Watching: A Marble Hornets Story” is a pure Found Footage film that hits all the right notes – no opening credits, no title, no musical score – just raw found footage, plain and simple. The footage is cleverly assembled and presented in a manner that tells a coherent story without feeling the least bit contrived. The filming reason, that is the reason why “everything” is recorded, is nothing short of brilliant – one of the protagonists, a professional filmographer, was stalking a second protagonist, a sexy female newscaster, resulting in the capture of a good amount of the foundation footage used to establish the characters; a second filming reason is also employed that relates to the antagonist (“the Operator”), but can’t be explained further without revealing one of the main plot devices of the film.
“Always Watching: A Marble Hornets Story” is a pure Found Footage film that hits all the right notes – no opening credits, no title, no musical score – just raw found footage, plain and simple.
The story revolves around a news crew filming a story focusing on a company that purchases foreclosed homes, repairs them, and flips the properties for profit. While filming a walk-through of one of the foreclosed homes, the news crew discovers that the previous owners of this particular home left all of their belongings, including expensive property and personal items. These facts, in addition to some unsettling messages left on the home answering machine indicate that the family didn’t vacate the property, but are possibly missing which spurs further investigation. Soon thereafter, the news crew discovers a stash of video tapes in the basement and take them back to the television station to review, sensing that there’s a potential national news story to be had. A review of the video tapes indicates that the previous owners believed someone was stalking them and that their lives were in danger. From here the protagonists start their adventure.
The three main cast perform exceptionally in their roles – Alexandra Brekenridge as Sara, the principle newscaster, Chris Marquette as Milo, the news crew filmographer, and Jake McDorman as Charlie, a producer for the television station. These three principle cast have great synergy and chemistry amongst one another. The supporting cast performs great as well.
As a Found Footage film, the cinematography is near flawless – each and every scene looks like genuine Found Footage. Many Found Footage films come across as too staged and clean, with all the action taking place front-and-center with cameras always held perfectly level at eye-height. “Always Watching” goes the extra mile to throw in cinematic elements that we normally don’t see in Found Footage films – for example, when a character is running for his or her life with a camera in tow, the camera is facing the ground swinging, as is to be expected. Most of the action “caught on tape” genuinely looks like it is captured by accident, rather than a staged scene.
As a Found Footage film, the cinematography is near flawless – each and every scene looks like genuine Found Footage.
“Always Watching” is a very good Found Footage film. However , deduct half-a-point if you already watched Marble Hornets, as there’s not much added to explain the mythology, and after having already watching nearly nine hours of the Operator in “Marble Hornets,” much of the shock value is gone in “Always Watching.”