Directed by: Troy Wagner
Written by: Troy Wagner, Joseph DeLage, Kirill Baru
Starring: Troy Wagner, Joseph DeLage
Series review: Three years ago, Alex Kralie started a student film titled “Marble Hornets,” but abandoned the project halfway through. When his friend Jay (our protagonist and narrator) asks him what he plans to do with the footage, Alex simply says: “Burn It.” After some coercion, Jay manages to get the tapes from Alex, just before he moves away. Jay neglects the tapes for three years and when he finally decides to watch them, he posts any strange incidents on the tapes to a YouTube account. And this draws him into a nightmarish world he cannot escape.
First off, Marble Hornets is scary. Very scary. Not in the “Oh my god, I just jumped out of my seat” way, but more in the “I am paralyzed with fear” way. The series doesn’t rely on jump scares or blood and gore; it is a finely crafted piece of Hitchcockian horror, with elements of Lovecraft thrown in for good measure. The antagonist, The Operator, is an ever present creature with no conceivable motive, and yet unknown paranormal abilities. Based off of the popular Slender Man mythos, The Operator is portrayed as a tall, thin, faceless man wearing a business suit. This seemingly tame combination creates a terrifying beast that will haunt your dreams.
[ad#longpost]Another part of Marble Hornets‘ charm is how goddamn subtle it is. The series trains viewers to meticulously scan the background like a demented game of Where’s Waldo. It preys on the audience’s desire to have a leg up on any upcoming scares, and uses that to build up unimaginable amounts of tension. Also adding to the tension is audio distortion, or as I call it “The Nightmare Geiger Counter.” As The Operator draws closer, the audio distorts or drops out, and the video begins to tear. This heaps onto the already massive amount of tension, and adds to the overall ambiance of the show. Also adding to the ambiance: there is a related series of videos created by a character named totheark, in which portions of missing audio can be heard and alternate angles can be seen. These pieces of the puzzle are wrapped up in disturbing, Ring-style bitlets.
The only problem I have is that the acting can sometimes be stilted and forced, ruining the tension built up at that moment. Overall, I can say that Marble Hornets can successfully blend films like The Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity. By doing that, it surpasses them both which–when you remember that this is an internet series made on a zero dollar budget–is pretty damn amazing. The first season DVD only contains Entries 1-26, but the rest can be viewed on the Marble Hornets YouTube channel
DVD review: The Marble Hornets DVD comes in a fairly basic trifold case. The title is written on a white background on the front, and a simple plot synopsis is on the back. On the first disk are the 26 entries of the series along with all of the totheark responses, organized in the right order. This cuts back on the searching that went with watching the series on YouTube. The commentary track is amusing, although not informative. Troy and Joseph often trail off, talking about Applebee’s and Combos for a large portion of the videos. Deleted Scenes, Bloopers, and a Twitter account can be found on the second disk. The inclusion of the twitter account also cuts down on the searching included with the web release. The Blooper reel is quite funny as well, mostly due to Tim Sutton (Who plays “Tim” in the series). The deleted scenes leave a lot to be desired though. They seem unnecessary and aren’t really that interesting. Due credit for completion for including them, I suppose.
Bottom line: Everybody needs to see this–take my word for it. Even if you aren’t a fan of the suspense/horror genre, Marble Hornets will draw you in.
Isaac’s Viewing Guide: If you want to just watch the series with as little hassle as possible, pick up this DVD. If you want to experience the full Alternate Reality Game nature of the series, go the web route. Not only does it add to the immersion, but it allows you to catch up to the current entries (the latest entry as of this review is 42). If you want to mix and match, be my guest. The links to the YouTube channels and Twitter are above. Whichever path you choose, make sure you really get into it…and watch it alone. Immerse yourself. Suspend your disbelief and let the tension carry you along. Have Fun!