Sunday, January 17, 2010

Marble Hornets

I love the internet. You surf your merry way through its various nooks and crannies, and suddenly you find something, sometimes this something is funny, other times it's exciting or sad, and yet again other times, it's flat out fucking terrifying. You see, from the dark dungeons of Tvtropes, I was lead to a... well, I'm not certain what I should call it, so I'll just call it a series for now, on Youtube, called Marble Hornets.

The story of Marble Hornets follows the tale of the filming of the eponymous student film, and how the set, and the director in particular, is harrassed by a mystical well-dressed character of some considerable height, or wait, that's not quite how the story goes. You see, a friend of the director gets his hands on massive amounts of raw footage from the unfinished Marble Hornets. The director, Alex, doesn't want anything to do with it, as he has given up the entire project and refuses to elaborate as to why. After some persuasion, the friend, only referred to as J, gets the entirety of the tapes recorded for and around the movie, in trade, J agrees to never mention the film to Alex again.

In some sort of jumbled order, we are presented with cuts of the film and other segments recorded with a handheld camera, detailing Alex' progressive paranoia and the strange tall man whose coming is heralded by the audio on the camera cutting out, or possibly being cut out. To add to it all, the youtube reply segments are added from a second user, a mystical user by the name of "totheark." These are definitely more cryptic, alien almost, but occasionally show signs of being related to the segment it replies to, some times being parts of the happening from a different angle, implying whatever's stalking the set, and eventually J, is the one uploading them. All in all, it's one big clusterfuck of layers and layers, where the narrator occasionally takes on the mantle of hero, or victim, while some alien force seems to be able to transcend the bonds of narrative structure. It's eerily familiar.

Yes, you could say this whole experience reminds me of House of Leaves, and that's a good thing and a really, really bad thing all at the same time. You see, while the postmodern take on the role of narrators is refreshing, and the mystery surrounding the whole thing is very interesting, it's frankly starting to unnerve me. I feel I shouldn't even be writing this, lest I turn into some third-rate Johnny Truant-copy, tormented by the maddening truth of the fiction (?) I'm confronted with, haunted by a spectral beast that either is the monster of the story or the monster of my mind. And still I write. Wonder what that says about me? But I digress.

Much of the absolute terror that's inspired from this meta-narrative is extremely subtle. For example, there's one segment which is essentially one character in front of a window, talking about the titular film, and I still can't decide whether the mysterious tall man is standing on the other side of the window or not. You'll see, while watching this story, that a man in a tux is disturbingly difficult to pick out from a poorly illuminated background dominated by dark colors. Either that, or I've been imagining things, which definitely isn't good. Don't get me wrong, there's the occasional jump scare too, but they're fairly clever. For example, audio glitches of various types plague the film, and when one of them comes 'round, they come 'round LOUD, and since you're so immersed in the story, such sudden boos hit hard. Of course, that's to say nothing of the violent brainfuck that happens in Entry #19, but I'll let y'all cross that bridge when you get to it.

All in all, I like the Marble Hornets experience. I think it's a good thing when young filmmakers try to really play with the mediums at their disposal, in this case Youtube and Twitter, and make a story that really uses every aspect of these sites. I'm yet again drawing parallels with House of Leaves, but the two works have a lot in common. The series is still ongoing as far as I can tell, and it can be found at Don't say I didn't warn you, though. I watched the 24 episodes available in one sitting, and I'm starting to regret it.

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