I suspect I’m a bit late to the party on this one, but that means that other people must be too, so I’m going to write about it anyway and spread the word as I think it’s quite exciting. One suggestion, though: don’t watch this alone, late at night, in the dark. I had to sleep with the lights on last night, and even that didn’t stop the bad dreams.
Marble Hornets is difficult to describe. Part Youtube series, part ARG, it documents the story of Alex, a student filmmaker who suddenly and mysteriously abandons his film, entitled Marble Hornets, once he comes up against “unworkable conditions”. Despite his initial plans to burn the tapes, he is persuaded to instead give them to Jay, our protagonist, who chucks them in the back of his closet. A few years later, and after Alex’s disappearance, Jay is inspired to sift through the footage in the hopes of discovering what happened. As he does so, he uploads any clues he finds onto Youtube.
The resulting clips chronicle Alex’s slow slide into paranoia and madness as he is tormented by a shadowy figure; The Slender Man. The Slender Man was already known online as an internet-born myth, created on The Something Awful Forums; he is tall, he lives in the woods, and he wears a business suit. He appears across the internet in the background of old photographs, always lurking on the edge of sight as children play unawares in the foreground, or striding almost invisibly through forests as twisted and spindly as he. Things get even more disturbing when Jay’s behaviour begins to mimic Alex’s, obsessively filming and uploading his every own move and blacking out for periods at a time, unsure of where he has been or what has happened.
In a sinister turn of events, Jay is soon contacted by a second party, another Youtube user called TotheArk, who begins sending cryptic video responses with veiled messages and hidden codes. We are unsure whether TotheArc is friend or foe; he seems to be toying with us, egging us on.
What is so interesting about the series is its interactive aspect and web 2.0 narrative. Not only do we follow Jay’s encounters on Youtube, but he also has a twitter account, further blurring the lines between the real and the unreal. The series has a dedicated team of followers over on Unfiction and Something Awful trying to unlock its mysteries, and as Jay investigates what happened to Alex, we too turn detective, tracking events as they unfold across the internet and seeking out as much information as we can find. We become another layer of the story. We feel we are part of the narrative. We start looking over our shoulder and behind doors, convinced that the Slender Man is lurking there.
The story is as yet unfinished, leaving us with a host of questions to puzzle over in the meantime. Who (or what) is TotheArc? What happened to Alex? Is Jay destined to go the same way?