Watching Marble Hornets – Part 8

This is the eighth part of a journey through Marble Hornets, a YouTube-based horror mystery series. You can find the introductory post here.

Last time, we began the long-awaited second season of Marble Hornets. Jay awoke in a hotel with no memory of the last seven months. He befriended a girl, Jessica, who seemed to be suffering from similar symptoms, but just before they compared notes on their experiences, she vanished, and the masked man forced Jay to flee the hotel with nothing more than a bag of tapes recovered from the hotel-room safe.

Entry #34 (February 8, 2011)

Jay has begun going through the tapes he recovered from the hotel. After an series of introductory captions, we cut to footage of Jay driving. He talks directly to the camera, giving the date and the time and informing us that he is driving to the location of the return address on the package he received at the end of season one. He arrives at an abandoned and dilapidated red-brick house, and investigates. The house seems to be empty, and Jay leaves. The closing captions suggest that he will return.

At the beginning of the video, Jay says that it is April 21st, 2010. Two days have passed since he uploaded Entry #26; seventeen days have passed since Alex and Amy were attacked by the Operator. He also mentions that he has been driving non-stop since receiving the package, which led some viewers to believe that we were now in an entirely different area. That’s possible, but unlikely; Jay had been moving from hotel to hotel for the last part of the first season, and it’s possible that he ended up a couple of days away from the town where he and Alex went to school, where Alex’s Marble Hornets was filmed, and where the events of the first season took place.

The house is curious is a number of ways. It is clearly not the same building where we saw Alex and Amy in Entry #26, and it seems unlikely — if not outright impossible — that it was anything other than abandoned and run-down when that video was shot. What significance, then, does it have to whoever sent Jay the package? If Alex sent the package, the house could be nothing more than a convenient rendezvous point; if the package was sent by ToTheArk or an as-yet-unknown individual, then it could be something far more sinister. We should also note that the floorplan doesn’t necessarily indicate that it was a residential building in the first place: the large room doesn’t seem to have been subdivided by internal walls at any point, meaning that there was no separate bedroom. It is possible that the smaller room on the left was a kitchen, but we see no evidence of fixtures. It looks as though it could have been an office or administrative building, but it’s difficult to be sure. For the sake of convenience, we’ll continue to refer to it as the red-brick house.

The tapes are an interesting device, and it’s difficult to see them as anything other than a return to the narrative style of the first season; that said, there is one important difference. The season two tapes are roughly ordered, and while Jay allows for the possibility of some narrative surprises by mentioning the unlabeled tapes, we can expect the sequence of events to be more linear and easy to follow. That fits the series’ new narrative style, which has moved on from the haphazard creepiness of the first dozen entries, and is now telling a linear story, despite the fact that we’ve moved from the present to the recent past.

For those of you paying attention to the layers of narrative in this story, this is an interesting point. When Marble Hornets began, Alex was our protagonist, and Jay our narrator; then, when Jay became active in the investigation, he became both protagonist and narrator — a dual role which, as I’ve discussed in the past, leads to a strange tension in the narrative. As we explore the tapes from the missing seven months, Jay-from-the-past is our protagonist, while Jay-from-the-present is our narrator. That means that we have a potentially unreliable narrator reporting and speculating about the actions of another potentially unreliable narrator — in the sense that past-Jay shot the footage, thereby constructing a narrative based on what he thought was important — based on incomplete evidence. I won’t take the time to fully explore all the possible interpretations of every single event in the upcoming videos, since to do so would be exhausting, but it’s worth remembering that we have layers of obfuscation between present-Jay’s narration and the actual truth of events, even if, as they seem to be, present-Jay’s intentions are completely open and honest. This, along with the split timeline, is one of the more interesting things about season two.

What is the house? Why was it the return address on the package? Was the intention of the package to lure Jay back to where the trouble all began?

totheark: Fragments (February 10, 2011)

ToTheArk returns with a typically cryptic video. Over heavy audio distortion, we see a torn-up photograph of Alex. Blurred captions read “you are broken” and “you cannot be fixed”. The video ends without further information.

This is the first video from ToTheArk since either Warning, which was posted on February 3rd, 2010, or Entry ######, which was posted on Jay’s YouTube channel on March 5th, 2010. The YouTube description for the video is “hello again”, and the video is tagged with the words “always”, “see” and “you”. This may suggest that ToTheArk has been watching from a distance for the last year, or has now returned his — or her, or their — attention to Jay after a hiatus.

The captions in the video are very similar to the captions that Jay uses on his videos. This isn’t the first time we’ve seen this kind of mimicry; the Attention video featured a caption reading, “Return to us,” also in Jay’s signature style. This seems too specific a reference to be accidental, although the deeper meaning is unclear: is ToTheArk making a pointed allusion to Jay’s investigation, or is he, perhaps, indicating the messages in this video are not aimed at Alex, as the torn images would suggest, but at Jay himself? Either seems possible: if it’s Jay, it may be a reference to his lost memories, and the fact that they cannot be returned; if Alex, then we can only speculate, since we have no information about Alex’s whereabouts or condition in the wake of the Operator’s attack in April 2010.

Who is broken? What does it mean to be broken? What has ToTheArk been doing for the last year?

Entry #35 (February 15, 2011)

Jay returns to the red-brick house. He investigates the main room, and complains aloud that there’s nothing to be found. Suddenly, a familiar voice says his name; he turns back to the door and sees Alex, who puts his finger to his lips and points to the smaller room. Jay investigates cautiously, and is startled by the masked man, who is carrying a knife. The masked man charges past Jay, who drops the camera; we hear Alex cry out, and a moment later, the masked man is thrown to the ground by Alex. Jay gives Alex a length of cord or cable, and then recovers the camera. There is a rush of audio and video distortion, and when the picture returns, it is accompanied by a visual tear. Jay moves to where Alex has bound the masked man, and removes his mask: it is Tim. Jay picks up the knife, and Alex demands that he give it to him. Jay refuses, and Alex tells him to turn off the camera as he picks up a large block of broken cement. Jay yells at him as Alex raises the block above Tim; the camera looks away as there is a cry of pain and a surge of distortion, and we cut abruptly to Jay driving. Jay’s captions inform us that he didn’t expect to find anything like this on the tapes, and that he doesn’t know what happened next. The video ends.

This entry is a big deal, and a significant turning point in the story, so there’s a lot to get through. Let’s begin, though, with the obvious…

It was Tim! It was Tim, the whole time! It’s true that many of you will have figured out the identity of the masked man some time ago, particularly after the shot of Tim’s back as he is putting on the mask from Entry ######, but the reveal is still surprisingly effective, not least of all because Tim’s performance manages to sell his fury and fear.

Let’s linger for a moment on this revelation, and see how it changes what we already know. The masked man first appeared in Entry #18, during Jay’s second trip to Brian’s old house. Jay went to the house, you may remember, following an anonymous tip; that tip arrived shortly after Entry #15, in which he interviewed Tim about the shooting of Marble Hornets. Did Tim send the anonymous tip? It’s possible, although if he did, then it was almost certainly with the intention of attacking Jay. We have little information about Tim’s motivations, but he has attacked Jay twice, run from him once, been present in Jay’s home in the middle of the night, has appeared in several ToTheArk videos — either in person, or represented by the mask itself — and is clearly connected to the Operator. He is also sick, as indicated by his seizure during the first attack on Jay, and the medication we saw him take as Tim in 2006, and possess (and possibly steal back from Jay) as the masked man in 2009.

We know, of course, that Tim is not dead; we saw him in the hotel after Jessica disappeared, some seven months after this event. When he appeared in the hotel, however, he was limping severely, and it is entirely possible that Alex broke his leg with the cement. We can only speculate about what happened to Tim in the wake of the attack in the red-brick house, but we know that he is still active in the present-day timeframe.

It’s difficult to discern a consistent pattern of behavior from Tim. It’s probable that he wanted Jay to visit Brian’s house, and then attacked him; the second time they encountered each other at the house, he fled. Seven months after Alex attacked him with a cement block — an event which Jay witnessed and did little to prevent — he shows up in the hotel, presumably has something to do with Jessica’s disappearance, and tries to attack Jay again. On top of that, his association with ToTheArk suggests that he is involved in a larger game, which may or may not be focused upon Alex, rather than Jay. Tim is either doing a terrible job of trying to deter Jay’s investigation, or a masterful job of subtly encouraging and directing it.

Lest we spend all our time focused on Tim, let’s consider the other significant development in the story: Alex is back, and in yet another guise. We’ve seen him be, by turns, charming and funny, obsessed and paranoid, lost and alone, and now cold and vengeful.

Did Jay know that Alex was outside the house? It seems possible; he doesn’t react in a way that suggests he has not seen his erstwhile friend since the summer of 2006, and it would also explain Jay’s out-loud commentary as he explores the building — something we have rarely, if ever, seen Jay do. It is possible, therefore, that Alex contacted Jay between Entry #34 and #35, and they returned to the house together. That would also explain Jay’s frustrated complaint, “What are you wanting me to see? I’m not seeing anything!” In either case, it is clear that Alex knows where Tim is to be found, and leads Jay there deliberately, either in person, or by means of the package. It now seems clear that it was, in fact, Alex who sent the package, including the video of the Operator’s attack on himself and Amy.

With regard to the building itself, Jay’s glimpse into the small room to the left offers an interesting possibility. Tim emerges from a still-smaller room which, as we can see from the floor-plan of the main room, must be no bigger than a closet. While this is consistent with the masked man’s sleeping arrangements in the abandoned house from the first season, we shouldn’t ignore the possibility that there are stairs leading down to some kind of basement. It would be presumptuous to suggest that the basement of this building might be the extensive and mysterious basement which Alex and Seth explored — and in which Jay encountered the Operator — but it isn’t impossible. In any case, it’s enough to conclude that there may be an unseen basement beneath this building.

The audio and video distortion is interesting, particularly now that we know the masked man isn’t inherently supernatural. As with Jessica in the previous handful of videos, the distortion seems to grow worse in proportion to both proximity and emotional intensity. We must also note the distinctive visual tear when the footage returns; we have assumed until now that this is a sign of the Operator’s presence, and it may still be so, but it could also be a higher-level manifestation of the same distortion. The source of the distortion isn’t clear, but it’s tempting to assume that it is a direct consequence of exposure to the Operator, along with the sickness, the symptoms of which were also exhibited by Jessica and Tim.

One small detail: it seems likely that knife Tim was carrying was the same knife that Jay lost in Brian’s house in Entry #18. It makes sense that it was taken — or found — by Tim.

In conclusion, then, this is an important entry. In a few short minutes, many of our presumptions about the Marble Hornets universe are turned upside down. Jay found a part of what he was looking for; Alex was stabbed; Tim was unmasked and brutally attacked. Alex may or may not be a victim, but he is anything but harmless; Tim may or may not be dangerous, but he is worthy of our sympathy. It’s too soon to say how this will shake out, but the game is afoot.

Why was Tim wearing a mask all this time? Was he pretending to have forgotten Jay during the interview in Entry #15? How long has he been in the house? Why did Alex track him down? Why did Alex apparently break his leg, but not kill him? Where has Alex been since the Operator attacked him? Did Alex and Jay meet before returning to the red-brick house? If they did, where and when did it happen? If they didn’t, how did Alex know Jay would be at the house? Was the Operator nearby?

In the interests of keeping these entries a little shorter, we’ll wrap it up there and come back next time to look at the aftermath of Tim’s unmasking. Next time, Jay and Alex will have a conversation or two, and some strangeness from ToTheArk will make us reconsider Alex’s origins. Shout out in the comments if you have thoughts, opinions or questions, and stay tuned for more!

If you enjoy Marble Hornets, support the creators by buying the DVD set.


One thought on “Watching Marble Hornets – Part 8

  1. This just keeps getting better and better. I don’t seem to be able to stop watching, even though it creeps me out so much.

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