Amongst those interested in and passionate about new-media storytelling, Marble Hornets is already legendary. It began in 2009 as a low-key YouTube horror series about an abandoned student film project, and set a new bar for complex, compelling storytelling; Roger Ebert described it as, “a forsaken indie film,” and said, “Marble Hornets is remarkably well done.” It is uncompromising, haunting and wonderfully original.
And we’re going to watch it together.
Back in 2012, I started a series of articles discussing the series in exhaustive detail; then, as I caught up with the series toward its conclusion, the pace of the articles faltered. I always meant to go back and finish the series, but as I looked at the work that I had done, I realized that the articles had grown in complexity and ambition; I wanted to go back to the beginning and add more content, but the time never seemed right. Now, I’m going back to those original articles, expanding and clarifying and rewriting them, and then we’ll push through and finish the series together.
Marble Hornets is not gory; it is an intricately-constructed psychological horror-mystery. Some of the entries will, I guarantee, disturb you; there are one or two that I’m not looking forward to watching again. They are not explicitly violent, so don’t worry about seeing too much blood; if you like your stories to be a little more visceral — pun very much intended — I recommend the EverymanHYBRID YouTube series. Marble Hornets, on the other hand, draws you in until the smallest thing can set your world spinning, and send you lunging for the light switch.
So, Marble Hornets is thoughtful, quietly disturbing, and requires a certain commitment from anyone who wants to keep up with its deliberately-tangled narrative. Why, you may be asking, is it worth the effort? The answer is that both the narrative and the delivery system are unique; it’s part story, part puzzle, and part game, and it’s replete with interesting characters and powerful iconography. Put simply, you’ve never seen a story quite like Marble Hornets, and there’s a very good chance that it will change the way you think about storytelling.
On that point, my intention is to look at it primarily as a story — considering the characters, the events, the “puzzle” of the whole thing — but also to examine the narrative techniques employed. I won’t be including out-of-game (OOG) information, and I won’t be breaking the chronology of events by pointing out details which either aren’t significant or aren’t explained until later. This is the raw Marble Hornets experience, as far as possible, but it will also be informed by whatever meager analysis I can offer on the telling of the tale, as well as the tale itself.
The plan is to watch a handful of the “Entries” every week, which should bring us up to speed before the finale of season three; then, presumably, we’ll push through to the end together. If you want to discuss the story as it unfolds, then please leave your thoughts in the comments; if you get caught up in the story and want to go on ahead, then feel free to do so, but I’ll be keeping a close eye on the comments to these posts so that nothing is spoiled for those of us progressing at the same pace. There are no wrong answers, and no stupid questions.
So, in closing, some thoughts and suggestions:
- You should absolutely watch Marble Hornets at night, alone. The whole purpose of storytelling is to elicit an emotional response in the audience, so do what you can to make that emotional response as pure as possible.
- Alternatively, you should absolutely watch Marble Hornets in the middle of the afternoon, with the radio or television playing in the background. The storyteller doesn’t get to dictate your experience — watch it in whichever way you feel most comfortable.
- If you don’t like “horror stories”, you should still give Marble Hornets a try. There are exceptions to every rule.
- Really. Even if you don’t like things like this, try it. You might be surprised.
- If watching Marble Hornets tempts you to tell your own story, you should.
- If you disagree with something I say about the show, let me know!
I hope you’ll consider taking part in this little project, and that you’ll enjoy the journey!