This past February, Variety announced the production of a film version of popular web series Marble Hornets, under the direction of James Moran, the second unit director of the last three Paranormal Activity films and written by Ian Shorr, writer of the film Splinter and episodes of the TV series Trenches.
For those not in the know, Marble Hornets is a vastly popular horror YouTube series created by Troy Wagner and Joseph DeLage, film students from Alabama inspired by a thread on the Something Awful forums. The show, shot on handicam in various creepy locations near the film-makers’ homes, tells the story of a young man named Jay who delves into old footage from an unfinished student film he’d shot years before, and finds himself in the middle of a psychologically terrifying mystery.
Taking root in the increasingly-popular mythos of the Slenderman and branching out to a cat and mouse game played by Jay and faceless figures who run their own YouTube account, the series explores not only what really happened to the director and cast of the student film (which is almost humorously Garden State-esque), but also the lasting effects of fear on the human psyche. We watch as Alex, the now missing director, becomes obsessively paranoid in the early episodes, move onto the growing unease of Jay himself as his discoveries pile up on YouTube, making him a target for The Powers That Be, and delve into the psychological break of a character initially called “totheark”, who has been a victim for years. The writing of the series so surpasses most amateur productions that the viewers find themselves suffering the same paranoia as the characters in day to day life—some fans have even a hard time going out into forested areas or driving at night.
While handicam films have become increasingly popular with film audiences over the past few years—the best example being the aforementioned Paranormal Activity franchise—one cannot help but wonder how in the world a film can even brush the surface of the deep well that is the Marble Hornets storyline. Spread out across two YouTube channels and supported by Jay’s Twitter page, show writers Wagner and DeLage have managed to delve deeper into the psychological terror of living under the shadow of the Slenderman than can typically be captured on film.
More than seventy episodes in, the series is in the process of wrapping up and answering unanswered questions—and will continue to do so despite the film’s release in 2014, according to Troy Wagner. Let me repeat that for you: seventy episodes in, and the audience still only knows about 75% of what is going on. While this works for long running series (just look at Lost), will Shorr be able to properly navigate the waters of the Marble Hornets series without getting in over his head? Or is the film, perhaps, slated to have sequels?
As a fan of the web series, I cannot help but be concerned that one of two things will happen – The film script will be too close to the original series, and the film itself will just be Marble Hornets on a larger screen and with less buffering time, or worse, the film script will be so far away from the original series, seeing as it seems nigh impossible to cover even the first season’s story line in one film, that it is utterly unrecognizable as Marble Hornets, and instead just seems like Paranormal Activity starring a tall man in a business suit.