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|Created by||Joseph DeLage
|Written by||Joseph DeLage
|Directed by||Joseph DeLage
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||3|
|No. of episodes||131|
|Running time||1-25 minutes|
|Original release||June 20, 2009 – June 20, 2014|
Marble Hornets (abbreviated MH) is a YouTube web series inspired by the Slender Man online mythos. The first episode was posted on YouTube on June 20, 2009, following a post that its creator, Troy Wagner, created on Something Awful the previous day.
To date, there are 92 episodes on the main channel (with 87 entries). The series also has 39 accompanying videos from a side-channel, "totheark". These videos, as well as the eponymous "totheark", have been featured multiple times throughout the story. As of 7 May 2017, the principal channel has over 91,060,381 views.
On August 3, 2015, a spin-off sequel series titled Clear Lakes 44 was uploaded onto the Marble Hornets channel. As of April 2016, Clear Lakes 44 was cancelled after the members of the creative team went their separate ways, as confirmed by Wagner. On October 16, 2016, a successor to Clear Lakes 44, titled Eckva, was launched. On December 27, 2017, Wagner posted a new photo to his twitter page, teasing a comic related to Marble Hornets slated for a 2018 release.
In 2015 a film adaptation Always Watching: A Marble Hornets Story was released.
The series follows Jay (Troy Wagner), a young man who attempts to find out what happened during the filming of "Marble Hornets", a student film project of his friend, Alex Kralie (Joseph DeLage), three years previous. Alex abruptly ended the project after two months of production and has since been secluding himself from society. Before cutting contact with Jay, Alex gave the film tapes to Jay while telling the latter never to talk about it with him again. Jay discovers that the filming seemed to be hampered by a figure known as "the Operator", who begins invading Jay's personal life after he watches the tapes, inducing him to set up cameras in his apartment. Posting the tapes to YouTube as "Entries" also nets Jay cryptic and threatening responses from a user known as "totheark". Jay's attempts lead him to meet with one of the film's cast members, Tim (Tim Sutton), and a visit to the abandoned house of another cast member, Brian (Brian Haight), where he has his first encounter with a masked figure. Jay visits a red tower to find a tape showing Alex leaving his cameraman Seth (Seth McCay) at an abandoned building when confronted with the Operator, and deeming all of the cast and crew of Marble Hornets "gone". Eventually, threats of stalking from totheark causes Jay to flee his apartment, which is subsequently burned down. Jay sets out to find Alex after receiving a video mail of Alex and his girlfriend, Amy (Bethann Williams), being attacked by the Operator.
Seven months afterward, an amnesiac Jay wakes up in a hotel room and meets with a similarly amnesiac young woman, Jessica (Jessica May), who subsequently disappears. He unlocks a safe containing videos and a hard drive revealing the events that transpired during the previous seven months, including his run-in with Alex which saw them forming an alliance to find Amy. Jay learns that the masked figure is Tim, who cooperated with a mysterious hooded figure in his attempt to kill Alex. Having been driven insane by the terror of the Operator and suspicious of Jay sneaking on him, Alex killed a stranger whose body was taken by the Operator. The videos also reveal that Jessica is Amy's friend and roommate, who, when contacted by Jay in his investigation, is unintentionally dragged into the case. When an insane Alex attempted to kill Jay and Jessica, the two escaped with the help of Tim and headed down to the hotel, where the Operator erased their memories.
Having no lead in finding either Alex or Amy, Jay enlists Tim under the pretense of finishing Marble Hornets. While Tim is initially furious upon learning about Jay's true motives, he decides to continue assisting him. It is revealed that Tim was formerly committed to a mental hospital due to hallucinations that he fears were caused by the Operator; his hallucinations are what are driving him to enter his "masked" state, and only a certain kind of medicine is able to counteract that. Subsequently, Tim suffers through psychological torments by the Operator, which is further hampered when the medicine is stolen by the hooded figure. Tim is also revealed to have hidden a video showing him and the hooded figure being the ones responsible for kidnapping Jessica before the Operator took hold of her. When Jay is trapped and killed by a lurking Alex, Tim carries on by himself and eventually learns the identity of the hooded figure: Brian, shortly after Tim sees him fall to his death. During Tim's final confrontation with Alex, Alex reveals that he wants to kill anyone with knowledge of the Operator; he claims that, in addition to Jay, he's already killed Amy, Seth and Sarah, and plans to then kill himself, as the Operator cannot materialize if there is no one who believes in him. In the ensuing struggle, Tim finally manages to kill Alex by stabbing him in the throat. The Operator then appears and leaves with Alex's body.
Four days afterward, Tim voluntarily commits himself again to a mental asylum and reunites with Jessica, whose location has been hidden by him to protect her from the Operator's clutches. Tim's final encounter with Jessica ends ambiguously as Tim lapses into a coughing fit as the camera distorts and then cuts to black. When the footage resumes, Tim is alone, driving away and stopping at an intersection while sirens can be heard in the distance. The final image of the series is a text card that simply states "Everything is fine".
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- Troy Wagner as Jay Merrick: The protagonist for the majority of the series. A friend of Alex back in college, Jay begins uploading the entries in an attempt to discover exactly what happened during the filming of Marble Hornets. He is fatally wounded by Alex in Entry 80.
- Joseph DeLage as Alex Kralie: The director of the original Marble Hornets student film project and the focus of Season 1. Alex used to attend the same school as Jay, but transferred to a different one. A large portion of Season 1 consists of tapes he filmed for personal use and for his uncompleted student film Marble Hornets. During the latter part of the series, he serves as an antagonist towards Jay and Tim.
- Tim Sutton as Timothy Wright/The Masked Man: A former actor from the Marble Hornets student film and the secondary protagonist. He makes several appearances in the Entries and on the totheark channel wearing a mask; the identity of this masked man was not revealed until Entry 35. He eventually takes over the Marble Hornets channel from Entry 80 until the series' conclusion.
- totheark: An anonymous figure who made multiple, cryptic video responses to the Entries throughout the series. Their identity is never revealed throughout the series and it is entirely possible that it could be a group of people, as opposed to an individual. The most likely possibility of this is Brian, Tim, and Seth.
- Brian Haight as Brian Thomas/The Hooded Man: Brian was the main actor in Alex Kralie's project, and was assaulted by Alex, later returning as a mysterious hooded figure who works against Alex.
- Jessica May as Jessica Locke: A woman who Jay meets in the second season and is somehow connected to Alex and the Operator, as well as being the roommate and friend of Alex's girlfriend Amy.
- The Operator: An entity of unknown origin. Begins appearing to Alex during the shooting of Marble Hornets. When Jay personally investigates Alex's disappearance, he starts to encounter the Operator too. The only consistent antagonist throughout the series.
- Bethann Williams as Amy Walters: Alex's girlfriend, introduced in Entry #26. She is confirmed to be dead by Alex in Entry #86.
- Seth McCay as Seth Wilson: the cameraman for Alex's film, Marble Hornets. Alex leads him to the Operator at the abandoned building in Entry #22. He is confirmed to have been killed by Alex.
- Mary Kathleen Bishop as Sarah Reid: an actress from Marble Hornets. She appears in front of the camera only once. Alex confirms that he killed her in Entry #86.
Development and reception
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Wagner and DeLage began working on the webseries after reading about the Slender Man mythos and because both liked the ease of creating a YouTube series. The initial budget for the series was about $500, which the two used to create the first 26 episodes. They decided against making a set time for each entry, as they both determined that the characters filming the entries would not consider the length of the episode and that the random entry times would help add to the realism. The entire series is edited with the software Sony Vegas Pro and Adobe Premiere.
After its release the series' popularity grew, drawing comparisons to Lonelygirl15 and Connect with I. In 2013, Dread Central named Marble Hornets one of their "Top 10 Horror Fan Films", noting that while it "isn’t technically a film" it still contained an "interwoven examination of the mythical Slender Man" and that they felt it was "what quality fanfare and found footage is really all about." Early during the airing of season 1, the series received praise from Roger Ebert.
In May 2014, the developers launched a Kickstarter campaign to raising funds for the DVD release of the third season. The response was overwhelmingly positive, with the original goal of $8000 in donations being exceeded by $76,271. These funds went towards further projects, including a box set and new supplementary material in the form of scenes from Alex Kralie's Marble Hornets.
In February 2013, Variety announced that plans were underway to produce a film adaptation of Marble Hornets. They also announced that the script would be written by Ian Shorr, that James Moran would direct, and that Doug Jones would be portraying the Operator in the film. In October of the same year, Wagner announced on his blog that the movie had finished filming and it would not be a continuation of the YouTube series but would be set within the same universe.
The film, titled Always Watching: A Marble Hornets Story, was released on video on demand in April 7, 2015, starring Doug Jones, Alexandra Breckenridge, and Alexandra Holden. The film opened in select theaters on May 15, 2015. Critical reception for Always Watching was predominantly negative.
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- Clow, Mitchel. "'Always Watching: A Marble Hornets Story' movie review: Tell, don't show". Hypable. Retrieved 26 September 2015.
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