- Charlie: So, what, this thing stalks you, and *sigh* marks you somehow impossibly, and then when you become just so obsessed with this thing you go completely bonkers? Is that what we're dealing with?
Sara: Maybe they found a way to make it stop
Charlie: Yeah, God maybe they didn't guys. Maybe they could be lying dead somewhere
Sara: *annoyed* Stop it. Stop.
Charlie: and we're next is all I'm saying.
Always Watching, or Always Watching: A Marble Hornets Story, is a film based on the popular Slender Man ARG MarbleHornets. The film was written by Ian Shorr and directed by James Moran. The film features contortionist Doug Jones as The Operator. The film was released for purchase online April 7, 2015 and began playing in select theaters May 15 the same year.
The movie starts with some man and a woman holding a camera apparently fleeing through the woods. The girl hits the button to lock the car, indicating they are extremely close to their vehicle. The two try to run, however shortly into the dash, the girl stops when it occurs to her that the guy, named Eli, is apparently gone. The girl, Jamie, looks for him, but spots The Operator. She reaches the car and locks herself inside, starting the car. Eli, who seems to be blankly standing in front of the car, doesn't respond as Jamie begs him to get into the car. Eli rushes to the driver door, and bashes his head through the glass window, grappling Jamie out of the car and bringing her to the ground. A loud crack is heard which implies Jamie was killed, and the tape abruptly cuts.
Milo is a member of a news reporting team, and has a crush on his one-night stand with his coworker Sara. Charlie, an Ivy League graduate, has just transferred to the team, upsetting Milo and his chances at getting Sara. The three are given the assignment of investigating the mysterious disappearance of a man named Dan. Milo is tasked with investigating a series of Mini-DVR tapes that Dan shot. Many are simply birthday tapes or other such filming, however after some analysis, Milo begins findings images of an odd man in the tapes.
He brings this up to both Sara and Charlie, who seem interested and confused at the situation, and ask Milo to delve into the tapes. Milo continues doing so, but begins to have an odd power outage. Eventually Milo finds the Operator Symbol engraved into his neck. The situation becomes even more dangerous when the suited man appears in his backyard. At first Milo demands him to leave, however this man teleports closer to Milo, covering nearly thirty feet in an instant, and Milo flees to safety into his own house.
He eventually flees to Sara's home, interrupting her and a shirtless Charlie, which brings Charlie to anger. Charlie eventually forces a screaming Milo out of the house, Sara not trying to argue against it. Milo refuses to go home, and decides to sleep in his car. He attempts to call the police, but decides against it.
The following day, he goes home and finds his dog, Marlo, running about. He thinks someone is in the kitchen, but checks the upstairs bedroom on a hunch and finds Charlie. Charlie angrily confronts Milo over the months of footage of Sara doing things like shopping, going to work, and leaving her house. Sara comes in, disgusted by what she sees, however Milo begins to panic. Charlie refuses to let him touch a camera, and Milo then tells him to grab the camera and look around. Charlie finds the closet door flying open, and The Operator rushes him. Charlie panics, drops the camera, and all three take off from the house. The two continue on their journey, and all three get marked as they run, gradually losing sleep and becoming highly irritable. While at a hotel, they find that Sara is popping pills. Milo, enraged, thrashes through her belongings. Charlie, angry Milo is throwing him aside and pushing Sarah, proceeds to knock Milo down and kick him repeatedly, before trying to finish him off with a microwave. He drops it as the door flies open, indicating The Operator had appeared. The argument is forgotten, and they continue on. Eventually, at Sarah and Charlie's suggestion, they reluctantly shut the cameras off, hoping that this will make the monster chasing them simply give up. The next morning, they turn the camera on to find that Marlo is dead, having apparently been killed somehow in his sleep, and an Operator Symbol inside his car. Milo is angry at Charlie and Sarah for having them shut off the cameras, and quickly concludes The Operator got inside the car.
The three go on the run, trying to escape it. Their goal is to discover what happened to Dan and his family. Since there was no clue of where they went in the tapes, however Charlie's informant manages to let him know that Dan used his money to purchase a home in a new location. The three travel to this spot, and find the house has been burnt down. They locate a storm shelter with electricity and a working camera feed which apparently caught everything going on in the house. They find Dan smothered his daughter, and then choked his wife to death in a stupor... or at least it seemed. His wife, who he failed to properly choke and had only passed out, surprises the oddly behaving Dan, and slams into him on the staircase. Dan falls to his death on the stairs, and his wife, clearly stricken with grief, grabs a red can filled with some kind of fuel, and proceeds to burn the house down, while sitting in the living room clutching her daughters teddy bear rabbit.
Upset that that was all they could find, they go to the local sheriff, who informs them that Dan's wife survived the fire, and that she is locked up in an asylum after murdering her family. The three head straight there and contact the wife, who proceeds to calmly inform them that she believes the monster came into their life because Dan became interested in it. The interview turns violent when she realizes Sara has a mark on her arm. Sara, Milo and Charlie are forced to leave while medical staff restrain Sara and escort the three out.
Completely out of options, they decide to make a last stand in a cabin. They set the whole place up with cameras, and Charlie suggests, at this point, that the three of them separate and never meet back up. Since Dan killed his daughter, it shows that they are a danger to each other. Milo interrupts them when he notes that the camera picked up a detail he missed at the hospital: the wife's mark was gone.
The crew are then attacked by The Operator, who flings the back door open and walks inside. Milo grabs a rope and begins making a noose quickly, throws it over the side, and proceeds to kill himself, apparently believing that since he was the source of both Sara and Charlie's attacks. Now dead, it seems that The Operator has given up and walked away, leaving Charlie and Sara. Their joy is shortened when they find the corpse of Milo rising from the ground. Milo's corpse grabs a pipe, and proceeds to knock Charlie down. He then beats Charlie to death, and follows after Sara, who has already fled into the woods. Sara feebly tries to escape The Operator, who is clearly chasing her all over the forest, and is eventually knocked over by Milo. Moments later, Milo tosses her back into the house with enough force for her to fly almost ten feet. She crawls desperately, too injured to stand and run, and begs Milo to stop. Milo hits her in the head with the pipe, killing her, and then falls to the floor, his eyes solid white. Moments later, The Operator appears and seems to loop his movements. He then vanishes, and the pupils return to Milo's eyes.
The movie ends with Dan and his wife leaving a sale, where Dan has purchased a camera with a "college project tape" inside, which likely was the introduction to the movie.
Sequence of Events
The events of the movie are told, much like MarbleHornets, out of order. Here is a rough framework of the story in order. It is important to note that nothing about Eli and Jamie is known prior to them being in the woods, and nothing is known about the fate of anyone who came across the tapes after Milo, Sara, and Charlie died.
- Eli and Jamie attempt to flee The Operator while in the woods.
- Jamie loses Eli in the woods, but flees to the car as she spots The Operator.
- Eli appears at the car and wrestles Jamie out of the car, assumedly killing her.
- Dan Wittlocke buys the camera while shopping with Rose.
- Dan watches the footage of Eli and Jamie while Rose isn't in the car, and assumes it's a college project. They share a loving moment in the car before leaving.
- Dan, his daughter Tara, his wife Rose, and his son Jeremy, are all barbecuing on the beach with another family. Jeremy was apparently struck by a boat.
- Dan records a birthday party for his young daughter.
- Dan figures out about The Operator off camera.
- Dan sets up a camera in his daughter's room, which captures The Operator walking by. She calls out to her dad in confusion, but gets no response.
- Neighbors later tell Sara in an interview that Dan would point his camera into the woods at nothing.
- Dan calls the police on several occassions about a man "living in the trees", but their investigations turn nothing up.
- Dan spends excessive time taping himself doing things like repeatedly drawing the Operator Symbol.
- Dan and Rose have a huge argument over The Operator and Dan's behavior.
- The Operator makes an appearance in the window of her school during a taped presentation. It's not certain when this happened in the sequence, but is presented after the previous situations.
- Dan shows Rose The Operator by giving her the camera. She sees him in full and panicked.
- Dan notices an Operator Symbol made in the condensation on the inside of his house window.
- Dan notices The Operator in his bedroom and grabs his gun with the intent to shoot it, but by the time he grabs the gun, it is gone.
- Dan notices his daughter, Tara, has an operator symbol on her body.
- Dan finds Rose trying to harshly scrub the Operator Symbol off of her arm. When he talks to her, she says they must leave immediately.
- Dozens of answering machine messages are left by concerned friends, the school, and family. Dan and his family are not present to get any, and nobody is aware they are gone.
- Rose and Dan move into a new house very far away from their old one.
- Between moving in and the next scene, Dan sets up a basement bunker equipped with a satellite dish that is getting feed from every camera in his house. Dan also spends large amounts of time drawing symbols in the bunker, along with tons of newspapers possibly trying to document the creature following him.
- Dan awakens one night in a zombified state and smothers his daughter with a pillow.
- Rose awakens to find Dan standing in the hallway without making any noise, and attacks Dan realizing he did it.
- Dan violently chokes Rose, however Rose survives and knocks him down the staircase, killing him.
- Rose burns the house down while crying in the living room.
- Rose is found guilty of killing her husband and her daughter, and burning the remains. She is found mentally incompetent and is placed in a medical facility called Straddon Psychiatric.
- Milo Burns meets Sara Kovik in the bathroom of a New Years party where she is using drugs. They have a one-night stand in the bathroom.
- Milo proceeds to stalk Sara from a distance when both are outside of work. Milo never makes his presence known, and mostly follows her outside of her house.
- Milo returns home to Marty, his dog, after his stalking.
- Frank retires, and Sara and Milo meet with Charlie MacNeel, their new associate on their reporting team.
- Milo and Sara go to a story that Charlie has set up, Milo is upset and heavily distrusting of Charlie, while Sara is constantly telling Milo to be calm. Milo and Charlie clear do not get along.
- Milo and the group are doing a story on foreclosed houses. They are in the company of a man named Leonard who contacts foreclosed houses as a job.
- Milo is scared to death by a dog and leaves the house, and the group leaves.
- They arrive to a foreclosed house that belonged to the Wittlocke's.
- The group find the house in perfect condition as if the family just up and left everything without packing
- The answering machine containes dozens of concerned messages that were never listened to.
- Milo discovers the heavily vandalised basement, coated in Operator Symbols and likely done by Dan.
- Leaonard opens the small door in the basement and they find the tapes left by Dan.
- The group meet at a bar and discuss the filming.
- Milo and Sara go back to the news station where they view the various tapes but find nothing, however an argument between the two results in Sara leaving angrily (Milo and Sara argue over Sara believing her one night stand was a mistake). They miss the tape where The Operator walks by Tara's room.
- Sara and the group meet with a realtor who states they didn't make the Wittlocke's leave, they just abandoned the house.
- Milo is tasked by Charlie to view the tapes in their entirety.
- Milo goes back to the station to view the tapes.
- The group decide to investigate the story of the Wittlocke's.
- The group finds out that Dan and Rose had a son named Jeremy and meet with a family friend of the Wittlocke's who explain that Jeremy vanished during a family barbecue.
- Another interview states that a neighbor noticed over time after the accident with Jeremy that Dan began carrying a camera constantly.
- The group then interviews the police who state they got a series of calls about a man "living in the trees", but didn't take much mind to the tapes.
- Milo keeps watching the tapes.
- Milo finds out about The Operator and begins viewing the various tapes, noting The Operator more and more often.
- The Operator begins following the group to another interview.
- Milo interrupts Charlie and Sara and shows them the tapes and information he found.
- Sara reasons it may have been a copycat Zodiac Killer. Charlie reasons that serial killers do stalk targets, however Milo is unconvinced given there was no blood nor sign of a struggle in the house.
- The group is told by their supervisor to drop the story as it is interfering with their attendance at their job. Charlie seems unwilling, and the group decides to continue in secret.
- Milo continues watching the tapes at his house.
- Milo sees the tape regarding The Operator being invisible outside of a camera view.
- Milo loses his power. Marty becomes somewhat aggressive, and Milo has become extremely paranoid, admitting he is walking around with his camera just like Dan (although he doesn't seem to necessarily believe he's as far gone as Dan).
- Milo thinks he hears someone in his house upstairs and goes to investigate. He decides not to open his closet and realizes he's being a tad irrational.
- Milo misses The Operator appearing in his house while he checks his cicuit breaker. He locks his door and the camera shut off.
- When the camera comes back, Milo has power, and sets up several cameras in his house, possibly having seen The Operator in the camera.
- Milo finds footage of The Operator on his lawn in a camera.
- Milo drives to the Whitlocke home by himself after calling Charlie. He leaves him a voice message.
- Milo is scared in the basement when a box falls and music plays. It turns out to be a greeting card with a dying battery, and Milo finds a tape in the box with it. He doesn't notice The Operator in the basement with him, nor any other people, but hears a loud bang. He takes off out of fear.
- Milo sets up another camera in his house so that he can project the kitchen camera into the living room. The Operator appears in it while he is adjusting it.
- The Operator appears in the camera and draws a symbol on Milo's neck through the camera.
- Milo finds the Operator Symbol on his neck.
- Milo goes outside and finds Marty barking at nothing.
- Milo looks through the camera and sees The Operator, yelling at him and thinking it's someone in his yard. Once The Operator teleports, Milo realizes it isn't human and runs to his house, locking the door.
- Milo breaks into Sara's apartment with a key in her yard, and catches Sara and Charlie together. Milo loses it and begins yelling about being stalked, however Charlie is refusing to listen and forces Milo out of the apartment. They refuse to speak to Milo further as he panics, and he goes back to his car, crying.
- He tries to call 911, but decides not to (probably remembering how bad things turned out for Dan).
- Milo films himself at the grocery store, passing it off as a YouTube video.
- Charlie breaks into Milo's house and watches his tapes. He finds days of footage of Milo stalking Sara.
- Milo comes in and panics, but goes to the upstairs room where he confronts Charlie. Charlie is angry and refuses to listen to Milo.
- Sara arrives and Charlie shows her the footage.
- Milo realizes The Operator is present, however Charlie won't let him use a camera. Charlie uses it instead and The Operator teleports towards him and breaks a light.
- The group flees while The Operator continues teleporting.
- Everyone gets in an argument in the car considering their situation, fleeing as a group from their stalker.
- The group signs into a motel and Milo shows them the tape of Dan finding his wife scrubbing her arm.
- The group assumes the worst and that they can't escape.
- Sara asks Milo about the stalking and the two discuss it.
- The Operator appears in the room when everyone accidentally falls asleep.
- Milo assumes Sara escaped, but she just took a smoke break.
- Charlie gets news of where Dan and his family went from a friend in Boston.
- Milo begins obsessively drawing the Operator Symbol.
- Milo asks why Charlie got fired from Boston.
- The group stop at a gas station.
- One night Milo stops the van to check the lights while Charlie and Sara are asleep. He is attacked by The Operator and wakes up standing outside Sara's window. He comes to when she calls him, and he seems incredibly disoriented.
- They stop at a new motel.
- Milo finds Sara popping pills in the bathroom after she finds an Operator Symbol on her body, and angrily flushes her drugs down the toilet. The entire group gets into an argument that results in Charlie violently hitting Milo when Milo shoves him and forces himself through Sara's belonging to find more drugs. The Operator seems to end the argument by slamming Charlie to the floor, blasting the door open, and shorting the lights. The group refuse to stay.
- Charlie explains he just kinda lost it in the room. Sara assumes The Operator is Death stalking them, however Charlie believes it's something else entirely that controls people.
- Milo nearly crashes the car when he falls asleep at the wheel. Charlie switches, but can't stay awake. The group decides to sleep in the car and stop driving.
- Sara comes to the conclusion that The Operator wants to be seen, and that they should shut the cameras off. Charlie agrees, but Milo is scared and reluctant. They do so anyways.
- Milo wakes up furious, his dog is dead, and the Operator Symbol has been written in condensation on the inside of the car. The Operator was inside the car, and shutting the camera off did nothing to help.
- Milo buries his dog, and the group continues driving to where the Wittlockes set up their new home.
- They arrive at the home, and find it burnt to the ground.
- Charlie angrily storms off, but finds an RF antenna that connects to an underground bunker.
- The bunker contains dozens of newspapers and symbols, showing them that Dan likely went nuts before the end. They find a computer with the footage of the last night where Rose burnt the house down.
- The group loses hope as they realize the family died and never escaped.
- The group talks to a local sheriff and finds that Charlie and Tara were burnt beyond recognition, and Rose was alive. They find she's in a mental hospital.
- They eventually find Rose, who is mentally unsound and half of her face is burnt.
- Rose pretends she's interviewing her for a news station.
- Rose reveals The Operator was only allowed into their lives because Dan wouldn't stop investigating, and that she was spared, but not truly left alone.
- Rose realizes the group is being stalked, and attacks the group, but is held back by orderlies who restrain her. The group leave, completely dejected, and rent a cabin.
- They set up more cameras.
- Charlie comes to the conclusion that Dan and his family would have been safer if they had split up, and Sara isn't certain but doesn't argue.
- Milo realizes the Operator Symbol on Rose's arm is gone when looking over the footage. He also realizes Rose was spared after Dan died.
- The Operator appears in full and breaks the door open. He sluggishly walks into the cabin, and is damaging the lights. Milo grabs a rope, makes a noose, and chokes himself to death on a chair saying "Everything's gonna be okay".
- The Operator vanishes as Milo dies, his body falls to the floor.
- Charlie and Sara hug now that they're safe.
- Milo stands back up, somehow undead.
- Milo walks towards them with a large piece of wood. His pupils are gone. He striks Charlie in the head and knocks him down.
- Milo repeatedly smashes Charlie over the head until Charlie has stopped responding and dies.
- Sara escapes into the woods, but finds The Operator in the camera at every turn. She eventually runs into Milo.
- Sara is tossed back into the cabin violently. She is unable to stand.
- Milo strikes Sara across the face with the wood, killing her.
- Milo falls to the ground.
- The Operator appears behind the ground and appears to loop on broken tape.
- Milo's pupils return, and he returns to being completely dead.
Critical reception for Always Watching was predominantly negative. Dread Central gave the movie a mixed review, writing, "For fans, it will be a fun little bonus story that lets you down in the substance department. For people looking for a fun horror movie, it won’t be super memorable, but will give you a good time. If you don’t think about it too much and just experience it, it is quite fun. As a film/horror nerd, I was let down, but general audiences will like this a whole lot. It did enough interesting to earn my respect, but too much wrong for my adoration. A solid good time, but not a masterpiece." One of the most common complaints about the film was that it failed to live up to the original web series, despite having a much higher budget.
- When Charlie is pumping gas at the Gas Station, a Missing Persons poster is above the pump showing Alex Kralie. It states him missing since March 2009, listing his age as 26. This means by the time Jay begins posting to his YouTube channel, Alex has been missing for almost a whole two months as he started in April, and begins actively searching in September. By this time, it is possible that Sara, Milo, and Charlie were all long dead. Furthermore, Milo, Sara, and Charlie had nothing to do with Alex's problem, nor with Tim's problem.
- It isn't certain, but given Tim never interacted with many people, it's a good chance he wasn't involved in this situation. This would mean there are many individuals like Tim who started this situation.
- What happened to Dan seems to mimic what happened to Alex.
- This movie indicates two powers not seen in MarbleHornets, The Operator being invisible except on camera, and The Operator being able to animate dead bodies. It is also missing two powers, the ability to cause memory loss (which no character seems to show), and the ability to cause disabling seizures in people too close to it.