I do not believe that it comes as a shock to anyone that the vast majority of “found footage” horror films are hardly worth the time and effort spent making them. Many are outright garbage, mimicking the no frills creation, sans visual effects, set in place by The Blair Witch Project years and years ago. The trudging pace and lack of any visible monster presented by The Frankenstein Theory come to mind. Sometimes, to achieve the currently favoured by lowest common denominator genre of found footage, the storyline is contorted in such a way the film lacks common sense. An easy example would be the protagonist of the film JeruZalem wearing Google Glass eye wear for the duration of the entire film. We are talking about multiple days. No one would willingly or casually do that, and the viewer is taken out of the story experience by the apparent logic gap.
I am very pleased to tell you that this is not the case regarding the film Always Watching.
The evil presence come antagonist of the picture is the internet spawned urban legend, the slender man. He is an abnormally tall and lanky man in a black suit with no perceivable face. When one catches his attention, he will infiltrate your life with constantly increasing yet mysterious appearances until he abducts you, or you go mad with paranoia and fright. The reason for the omnipresence of a camera recording this entire flick is simple. It begins as a way for the operator to mildly stalk a girl he is obsessed with, but soon becomes the only method to actually view the slender man progressively infecting his life. Visual glitches abound, and the sound recorded crackles or completely drops out when the threatening yet refined horror is in the vicinity. It becomes a wonderfully creepy and realistic effect.
This film works on several levels. Chronologically speaking, the first level is the story of the initial family’s psychological harassment and breakdown as a result of the machinations of the slender man. This first story does not end well by any measure. The second level is the foremost level, relating a news crew’s ordeal after finding the first family’s videotapes of their experience. The thing about ol’ slim is that he functions in a manner similar to a virus. Providing his existence with any heed at all brings down his attention on your head. The third level is the film’s viewer witnessing the first two groups’ turmoil via the second trio’s hi def videotapes they left behind, edited together after a fashion. Now, you are directly involved in the ritual of progression. You are the only one who perceives our villain pop in and out of view, accompanied by malfunctioning video recording, while the second group plods on unawares. The creepiest bit being that now the viewer must ask themselves if they have noticed any odd goings on in their life, on their camera or television or laptop signaling the arrival of you-know-who.
I shall be completely honest… this movie delightfully creeped me out. ME! The point of view camera angles were all realistic and rang true. Personally, I recognized none of the actors, yet the majority of the performances were fantastic… with the exception of an overweight police officer who engages in a smidge too much behavioral exaggeration. Visual effects were used sparingly so as not to spoil the moments by over-saturation.
As I read the end credits (there are no opening credits), I noticed a lovely piece of casting. The slender man was portrayed in this flick by the amazing Doug Jones. Doug is known to many a horror hound as having played the aquatic Abe Sapien in the two Hellboy films, along with other roles in many other genre productions. What a nice, little surprise that was.
I award Always Watching a good eight out of ten spooks. Well done, and a great example of what found footage can be if handled with spirit and originality.