A movie review of “Always Watching: A Marble Hornets Story”: Based on the web series “Marble Hornets,” this unnerving horror story concerns three journalists who find a demon stalking them through ubiquitous video images. Rating: 3 stars out of 4.
A small measure of the spooky achievement of “Always Watching: A Marble Hornets Story” is in a tight, close-up shot of faucet fixtures for a household sink.
The curve of a pipe distorts reflections on the faucet’s metal surface, but a viewer — conditioned by this clever horror tale to expect spectral apparitions anywhere and everywhere — can’t help but stare at the innocuous hardware with fear. What if we suddenly see him on that pipe?
Based on the engrossing web series “Marble Hornets,” this unnerving ghost story presents random, split-second appearances by a faceless, silent ghoul — primarily seen in jagged video images shot by characters — that presage a lethal insanity overtaking his victims.
Movie Review ★★★
‘Always Watching: A Marble Hornets Story,’ with Chris Marquette, Alexandra Breckenridge, Jake McDorman, Alexandra Holden, Michael Bunin, Doug Jones. Directed by James Moran, from a screenplay by Ian Shorr, based on a web series by Joseph DeLage and Troy Wagner. 92 minutes. Rated R for violence, intense scenes of horror, language. Oak Tree.
A trio of television journalists discover this phantom’s stalking menace (whom they dub “The Operator”) when they examine a cache of home video recordings that belonged to a mysteriously vanished family.
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When Milo (Chris Marquette) spots The Operator lurking in this found footage, he unintentionally lets the demon into his own life, then spreads the danger to his colleagues (Alexandra Breckenridge, Jake McDorman). The film’s writers and first-time feature director James Moran add bite to the ensuing volatility among the three principals by having already established they’re in a nasty love triangle.
The smart conceit of “Always Watching” is that it is allegedly shot through numerous, ubiquitous cameras held, carried or mounted here and there by the film’s characters. Between handheld video, surveillance cameras, laptop cameras and more, we often see multiple angles on the same events.
The idea might not be entirely new for a movie anymore. But in an American society where body cameras, drones, cellphone video, news feeds, security monitors and more are all looking at the same crises, the notion of a video ecosystem in which a monster is revealed does not seem far-fetched.