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Film / Always Watching: A Marble Hornets Story

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A small town news team (Chris Marquette, Alexandra Breckenridge, and Jake McDorman) is on the hunt for a story. While following a crew responsible for clearing repossessed houses, they stumble on one house that isn't like the others. Unlike the previous houses, which have been mostly emptied by their former owners, this particular house still has almost all of its previous owners' possessions still in place. Upon searching the premises, the news team discovers a collection of tapes belonging to the family that lived in this house. As they go through the tapes, the members of the news team begin to find disturbing evidence that the family was being stalked by a mysterious figure...a figure only visible through the lens of a camera. As the members of the team struggle to learn just what happened to the unfortunate family, they begin to notice a figure appearing in their cameras, a tall, thin, blank-faced stranger in a suit (Doug Jones). The intrepid reporters find themselves in a race to solve the mystery behind the Operator before they become its next victims.

As the title would suggest, this film takes place in the Marble Hornets universe, but does not feature any of the characters of the original series (with a single major exception). The film was released on April 7th, 2015 through Video On Demand services and will be receiving a limited theatrical release on May 15th.

This film provides examples of:

  • Adaptational Villainy: Unlike how it's portrayed in the original Web Video (some sort of living virus), this version of The Operator is a supernatural and manipulative Serial Killer who apparently influences people to kill each other simply For the Evulz.
  • Arc Symbol: The Operator Symbol makes its return. Of course, since the film is an official part of the series that spawned the symbol in the first place, it makes more than a little sense. Among other things, the Operator apparently likes to brand the mark into the skin of his chosen victims while they sleep.
  • Ax-Crazy: The Operator is a sadistic and possibly psychopathic entity who apparently loves manipulating humans into killing the ones they love or close to them for sick amusement.
  • Bad People Abuse Animals: The Operator kills Milo's beloved dog Marty without any particular reason.
  • The Blank: Guess who.
  • The Cameo: Damon Gupton and Angus Scrimm appear in minor roles.
  • Cassette Craze: The film starts with the news team finding a pile of video tapes. It ends with some unlucky schlub buying their camera after their violent deaths, along with tapes about "some kid chasing a man in a suit in the woods."
  • Driven to Suicide: The wife of the family from the tapes, after surviving the attack of her possessed husband, attempts to burn down the house with herself inside. However, she survives. Milo comes to the conclusion that the Operator can only be stopped with the death of the person who first drew his attention and hangs himself to save Sara and Charlie. It doesn't work.
  • Downer Ending: Milo tried to kill himself in order to save Sarah and Charlie from The Operator, but this doesn't work. The Operator instead uses Milo's body to kill Charlie, teleport Sarah into the cabin, and has Milo kill her too, before dropping Milo's lifeless body onto the ground.
  • Faux Affably Evil: The Operator always leaves his Calling Card on the scene of his crimes in a sort of sick friendly reminder.
  • For the Evulz: The Operator gains absolutely nothing by viciously killing people of all age. It's basically like a human sadistic Serial Killer but with supernatural powers.
  • Hate Sink: While The Operator is a wicked and malevolent Serial Killer in general the fact that he first manipulates a father into killing his own daughter and then kills Milo's dog just for kicks makes him purely despicable at the audience's eyes.
  • Hope Spot: As the team retreats to a cabin and set up their cameras, the Operator shows up once again. Milo has determined that the only way to stop the Operator is to kill the person who drew its attention in the first place and hangs himself to save Sara and Charlie. It works. The Operator vanishes. The video distortions it causes come to an abrupt halt and everything seems to go back to normal. Sara and Charlie hug with Charlie saying that everything is going to be okay...then Milo gets back up.
    • An earlier one takes place when Charlie gets a tip that the father's credit card was used in Colorado, indicating that the disappeared family might have actually managed to find a way to escape the Operator. Sadly, those hopes are dashed when they arrive at the address only to find a burned-out ruin. Then those hopes are smashed into even tinier pieces and thoroughly stomped on when they discover the father's secret bunker and find the video of what happened.
  • In Name Only: Not that it hurts the film. While it's called "A Marble Hornets Story", the film does not mention or talk about the original story itself, although it takes place within the same universe as the web series, and there's even a Mythology Gag of Alex missing in one of the scene.
  • Invisible to Normals: A slightly unusual variation. Nobody can see the Operator, except through a camera, not even the people he's stalking. Oddly, this is a departure from the original Marble Hornets series, where it was established that characters could see the Operator without a camera. As revealed in the 2020 anniversary stream, this was an idea floated around by the THAC team, but they scrapped it due to the aforementioned contradiction.
  • Karma Houdini: You probably already guess who by now. Anyway, The Operator kills all the protagonists, dog included, and get away scott free without even an injury. The last shot of the movie suggests that it will target another family.
  • Kick the Dog: The Operator kills Milo's dog in one scene probably just to smite him.
  • Mythology Gag: There's a missing persons poster for Alex Kralie visible in one shot.
  • Offing the Offspring: The father smother's his daughter with a pillow while under the Operator's control.
  • Out of Sight, Out of Mind: At one point they guess that since The Operator can only be seen when the cameras are on, turning them off will, logically, make him go away and render him powerless. They're wrong...
  • Pater Familicide: The Operator directs the father to kill his wife and child.
  • People Puppets: How the Operator apparently gets things done when it finally goes in for the kill. One of the people in the opening scene is its first puppet while, later on it apparently possesses the father of the family and uses him to kill the daughter before going after the wife, who manages to survive the attack and kill her possessed husband by pushing him down the stairs. Later on, it possesses Milo in the most disturbing manner possible, after he's hanged himself. Milo actually stands back up and snaps his broken neck back into place before brutally killing both Sara and Charlie. In all the cases, the characters move and behave as though they are being physically manipulated. After he finishes with the other two, Milo collapses almost exactly like a puppet whose strings have just been cut.
  • Shout-Out: The character named Milo is the one to kill himself. Gee, that sounds familiar...
  • Silent Antagonist: Very predictable, The Operator never utters a word. Despite this he's shown to have a very distinct personality. Unfortunately not a pleasant one.
  • Stalker without a Crush: The Operator's MO is relentlessly stalking his victims day and night until it decides to kill them.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: When Milo and the others first spot the Operator lurking in shots of the family's tapes, their first impression is that they are watching a potential serial killer. Unfortunately, the truth is much worse.
  • Wham Line: Debated, but this line does raise eyebrows: "It's working right now! It even came with a tape in it, Somebody's art film or something." "What do ya mean?" "I don't know: Some kid chasing a guy in a suit in the woods with a flashlight."
  • Would Hurt a Child: That poor poor little girl.