Slenderverse: EverymanHYBRID

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The Slenderverse has become oversaturated with various series over the past few years. What had started as something new and exciting in 2009 was overrun with subpar Marble Hornets clones over the following few years. Now, six years after Marble Hornets ended, you can’t throw a rock on YouTube without hitting a new series with three entries that will likely end up dead in a few weeks after the creator quits in a huff because people are critical of it. This week, I think we should talk about a series that hasn’t quit, despite running for five years.

Let’s talk about EverymanHYBRID.

This series was the first one (according to the Wiki) to follow Marble Hornets. And it’s really nothing like its predecessor– a lesson writers everywhere should take. Rather than recycle the same ideas in a new package– something people accused TribeTwelve of doing at first, before its split into its own thing– EverymanHYBRID took the antagonist, Slender Man, and presented it in a way that is genuinely interesting, continually engaging, and downright mystifying.

The series begins with a bunch of… exercise videos. Yes, you read that correctly. Originally, the YouTube channel was intended to demonstrate ways you could improve your life through healthy eating, physical activity, and mental fitness. The gang, Vinny, Evan and Jeff, all participated in videos showing you how to save money by staying in shape without a gym membership!

Of course, they also have a sick sense of humor, and are horror fans, so they added a little spice to their videos by introducing some interesting background events. The trio had a friend dress up as Slender Man, and had him hide in plain sight while they apparently took no notice of the blank-faced figure. It was intended to be a fun little easter egg for fans of Slender Man to find, and it was harmless enough. Unless, of course, it wasn’t.

After a few videos, it appeared as though someone broke into Evan’s house dressed as Slender Man, resulting in this ludicrously memorable appearance.

The gang issues a warning to whoever was responsible for the break-in, still assuming that this is just a prank gone too far. They try to continue their exercise videos, but when strange things keep happening, it’s plain to see that they’re hiding their unease. Finally, after one of the crew’s girlfriend goes missing, the channel shifts to an all-out investigation into the supernatural things that are haunting them– and, it turns out, there are more than one. Slender Man, the Rake, and a new entity devised by the creators, HABIT, all toy with the crew as they try to figure out what is happening to them, and how to survive.

The body count is high.

WARNING: Spoilers, man. So many spoilers.

General Impression:

As I mentioned in my last review, I came late to the Slender Man game. EverymanHYBRID was the first series I watched after catching up on Marble Hornets, and if it wasn’t as good, I probably wouldn’t care very much for the mythos anymore. Fortunately, in my opinion, it’s better.

The series, much like TribeTwelve, starts a little slow. You spend some time trying to figure out why the cast is being so deliberately stupid about missing Slender Man in the background, then you figure it might be that Slender Man just can’t be seen. When they reveal that it was intentional, and done as a joke, they also claim that not all of the appearances were scheduled or planned, which puts an interesting twist on things. Then it quickly escalates, and the series swept me up with its humor, its good writing, its believable characters, and its rapid pace.

There isn’t much filler in this series, unless you count the opening episodes, and that’s not really fair.

What surprised me the most was its creators’ dedication to the idea of immersion. For a long time, they treated the series as though it was real. They didn’t come out and say “Oh, hey guys, look at our series, we made a thing!” It was months before anyone found out the cast’s identities– they kept it up for over half a year— and that was only due to some serious fan sleuthing. Even then, the crew tried their hardest to keep their online presence to a minimum, but after a while, they sort of had to give up. They even did an interview with another YouTuber in character.

The fact that they even tried is impressive. They had the right approach; they had very few differences between their in-game and out-of-game personae, even using their real first names. It was a good attempt that ended up falling short, but honestly, maintaining their anonymity for longer than a week of close attention is pretty dang cool.

Let’s move on to some things that I like a lot.

Good:

As I always do, let’s start with one of the things I believe is most important: characters. And hoo-boy, does this series have some damn good ones.

Jeff: This gangly dude starts off pretty mysterious. He’s the one who likes to be behind the camera more than in front of it; he’s not even seen for a few videos. When his girlfriend, Jessa, goes missing, however, Jeff shows his backbone. Rather than just file a police report and sit back, Jeff gets in his car and goes looking. Unfortunately, he doesn’t find her. And his depression begins to prevent him from seeing things that are happening right in front of him.

Jeff is the most lukewarm member of the crew. When new information comes around, or something terrible happens, Evan tends to react by punching things or otherwise losing his temper. Vinny tends to not react at all, sometimes just commenting on how weird it is before moving on. Jeff is more in-between; sometimes, he tailspins into a depression, sometimes he becomes overly optimistic. He was the last person to believe that the things happening to them were supernatural in nature, but once he does, he goes all-in. He’s crazily protective of his brother, Alex, especially after the offscreen deaths of their parents.

As the series goes on, and Jeff loses everything around him that he cares about (seriously, for a long time, the series seems intent upon breaking Jeff’s spirit specifically), he becomes more apathetic. It seems like he doesn’t even want to continue uploading videos to the channel, at one point begging the viewers to just stop watching. It’s interesting watching his character develop into something beyond “the guy who edits and who also lost a girlfriend somewhere.”

Vinny: This is the first person we meet in the series. He hosts the original videos, and continues, even in the most current entries, to be the one most interested in keeping things going. Vinny is the driving character for the majority of the series, constantly pushing Evan and Jeff into recording everything that happens. When Jeff wants to quit early in the show, Vinny is the one who talks him out of it.

I call Vinny “Stoneface.” This guy is completely unwilling to show that he’s afraid. Whenever things happen in the series, Vinny is the one who remains as unemotional as can possibly be expected, and who usually forms the next plan of action. He seems like he’s the leader of the crew, but that could be that he’s just kind of pushy. When the boys seem like they don’t have any leads, Vinny is the one who sits down and goes over everything they had gathered, clearly more willing to expend the effort to figure out what’s been happening.

As the series goes on, Vinny’s insistence at keeping the camera on at all times borders on the irrational. He claims it’s sort of therapeutic, and that it makes him feel safer. think it’s just him becoming slightly unhinged. He even forces Jeff to take a camera with him on a particular investigation, when Jeff clearly is uncomfortable with cameras at that point.

Vinny’s character arc is pretty dang interesting. Seeing him go through the events of the series and watching him slowly begin to unravel as things begin to chip away at his stoic nature is really interesting. In fact, he’d be my favorite character if not for…

Evan: This guy is the man. Seriously, though. Evan is fiercely loyal to his friends, willing to risk anything to protect them. And he is a total badass about it. Let me give you some examples.

1. Evan, upon seeing Slender Man behind him and Vinny while they were in the woods for a shoot, pulled out a massive knife, and charged immediately at him.

2. Later, when they’re investigating an abandoned building, Evan opens the back door, is heard screaming “Oh, I’M GOING TO KILL YOU MOTHER-” before charging at Slender Man with a baseball bat. The distortion hides some of it, but it looks like he hits him a couple of times. Even though he loses, Evan survives, though bloody and messed up afterward. When his friends try to take him to a doctor, he laughs– a little crazily– and just insists that he’ll be okay.

3. The crew is on their way to a friend’s house when she calls them and tells them that she’s being attacked. Before the car even stops, Evan jumps out of the vehicle and runs into the house. Jeff and Vinny try to get to the door, when they hear thumps and see the windows and doors shake, obviously a sign of struggle. Panicking, Jeff and Vinny run around the back of the house, when they hear breaking glass. Vinny looks up to the second story with the camera, and sees Evan standing in front of the broken window, looking down. When Vinny pans down to see what Evan was looking at, he sees the Rake, sprawled on his back. That’s right. Evan fought the Rake and threw it out of a second story window. The next time we see him, he’s covered in cuts and bruises. Also blood. And he’s still standing.

The list goes on. Whenever something terrible happens, Evan’s solution is kill it. He fights, constantly, without ever being afraid for his own safety. You can mess with him a little, but God help you if you threaten his friends.

Evan can be a little hotheaded, often acting before thinking. Vinny and Jeff try to slow him down in that regard. It doesn’t really work. Evan, like Slender Man, the Rake, and HABIT, is kind of a force of nature.

He’s got a softer side, too, as shown with his girlfriend in the series. Whenever the crew gets emotional, Evan talks about her. He’s really just a good friend to have in a bad situation, and it helps that he’s played by the best actor in the Slenderverse.

HABIT: I’m not going to mention Slender Man or the Rake in these character sections, because you can read about them in a bunch of other stories. HABIT is unique to EverymanHYBRID, and deserves a spot here. There are going to be some MAJOR spoilers, so skip this section if you want to avoid them.

Early in the series, the crew gets harassed by an unknown party. It mocks them through their own Twitter feed, leaves things marked with purple duct tape throughout their houses, and uploads videos to their channel that the crew can’t even see. Eventually, it reveals itself to be named HABIT (the spelling is incorrect unless it’s in all capital letters).

HABIT doesn’t make an appearance on camera until very late in the series. Once he does, it’s all about HABIT. It turns out that the entity has the ability to possess people. And, since it claims to want a big body count (though his real motives are debatable later) who better to possess than the most physically capable person in the series? Unfortunately, Evan indeed falls victim to HABIT’s possession. And goes on a killing spree. 

HABIT isn’t something that’s really quantifiable. He talks, which is unusual for Slenderverse antagonists– Slender Man doesn’t communicate, and neither does the Rake (at least not intelligently)– but you still aren’t sure what he’s planning. He seems to be opposed to Slender Man in some way, which seems like it would be a good thing. Unfortunately, his opposition to what he calls the “Stick-in-the-Mud” usually takes the form of murdering Slender Man’s intended victims.

He delights in torture, and murder. He’s foul-mouthed, crass and vulgar. He literally laughs at the camera when one of his victims tries to crawl away in the background. Half of the time you see him, it looks like he’s just trying to have fun. The other half, it seems like he’s deliberately manipulating the situation to his advantage– but you don’t know what he’s trying to accomplish. It’s one of the biggest ongoing mysteries of this series.

Honestly, the show is worth watching just for Evan and HABIT.

Let’s talk about plot, because there is a lot of it.

This series has plots within plots within plots. There is way too much story to summarize. Basically, Slender Man wants something from the crew. The cast tries their best to find out what that is. In doing so, they uncover documents from a psychiatric facility dated to the seventies about patients which have the same names as them. Those patients, young kids themselves, talk about HABIT and Slender Man when strange and confusing things happen around them. How these children are connected to the current crew is unknown, though there is a lot of speculation about them.

Time seems to bend when they investigate the documents and the facility, notably when they visit the storage unit of Doctor Corenthal, the man who cared for the patients in the seventies. At one point, they actually see the doctor, who has long been assumed dead. Later, Vinny visits a house that was owned by Corenthal, and evidently time travels, seeing himself, Jeff and Evan in their old basement.

The Rake confuses things further; he attacks Alex, Jeff’s brother, first, for unknown reasons. He kills characters offscreen on multiple occasions, after disappearing from the crawlspace behind Alex’s closet, where he had been seen and heard several times. The Rake’s motivation has even fewer clues than Slender Man’s, because he appears to attack somewhat randomly, though there are some who speculate that he is controlled by either HABIT or Slender Man.

After a lull in the mystery of the documents, right as the crew is about to follow up on a lead to Corenthal’s involvement, HABIT shows up in person. He kidnaps, tortures, and kills one of the crew. When the remaining member goes to his rescue, HABIT holds him hostage in his mysteriously sealed house. Every video since then has been the remaining members of the crew desperately trying to survive, escape, and figure out what is happening around them.

 

This is a terrible summary. There is so much more to this plot it isn’t funny. The plot summary page on the EverymanHYBRID Wiki is massive, and goes video by video– it really does a good job of explaining everything that happens. But, really, the best way to find out is to watch it.

Summaries aside, the plot is my favorite of the various Slender Man vlogs I watch. It is deliciously complex, rife with betrayals and false leads, jump scares and teases. The only bad thing about it is that I STILL WANT ANSWERS. Because the series is ongoing and hasn’t finished yet, we’re still short on some information. That’s why the speculation page on the Wiki is also massive; there’s a lot we don’t know yet. I will say this: so far, what we do know, I love. I just hope that answers will eventually be had.

 

Let’s talk about the final awesome thing in this series: ACTING!

Believe it or not, you can have a series that is produced on a shoestring budget that both tells a good story and is acted really well! The performance of the cast throughout has been consistently good. I can’t point to any scene in any entry that had me rolling my eyes. Hell, I do that for most network TV shows.

Jeff does a great job of portraying his bipolar character. When he’s sad, he sells his sadness. When he’s pissed, I believe he’s pissed. Even when he’s terrified, like when he sees the Rake with Vinny after Evan chucks him out the window, he runs away, and I buy it. He’s pretty dang solid.

Vinny is also really dependable. He started off a little shaky in the earliest episodes, but he grew on me. His little idiosyncrasies, which I had assumed to be mistakes, were just the way Vinny is.

But in the main crew? Evan is the star. This guy is an excellent actor, beyond even some paid celebrities. And he does it for free. 

When Evan goes nuts, he goes nuts. He absolutely sells every line he delivers, whether it’s a hilarious remark or a sphincter-tightening threat. When I first watched this series, I understood why some people thought it was real, just based on his performance. His acting is helped by the writing, which makes him a good character– often the only one who’s willing to talk sense in a senseless situation. But his delivery and timing are spot on.

When Evan is playing HABIT, I can’t look away. Part of that is the nature of the character; you’re on edge whenever he’s on screen, because you don’t know if HABIT is about to crack a joke or crack a skull. But a big chunk of it is Evan’s performance. The guy goes so wonderfully all-in on his portrayal that it’s impossible not to enjoy it. Let me put it this way: writers dream about an actor who understands a character as well as Evan does. (I feel like I should mention that the writing, shooting, editing and all other parts of production are evidently split pretty evenly between the creators; there is no one “writer” of this series. They all contribute.)

According to several people who know the creators, one of the reasons Evan is so convincing is that he isn’t really acting. Which, when you consider how scary HABIT can be, has connotations of its own.

Let’s move on before I fangasm all over the place.

Mixed:

The effects in the series can be a little spotty, much like Marble Hornets. Sometimes Slender Man will look outstanding, like in the video I embedded near the top. Sometimes… not so much. In the early entries I can pass that off as obviously intended to be the Fake Slender Man from the original joke storyline, but in later ones, it’s just distracting.

The Rake, perhaps because he only appears on camera three or four times, is always done right. He moves in a really convincingly alien and bestial fashion.

The distortion is spotty. Sometimes it works really well, others it’s just annoying.

One cool thing they’ve done is added a special type of distortion for HABIT that is distinct from Slender Man’s. They took the standard visual tearing and added some tints of purple to it (purple is often associated with HABIT, referenced by his predilection for purple duct tape).

Their makeup, on the other hand, is consistently excellent. When Evan is slashed up by the Rake, you can see deep cuts on his arm and shoulder blade, and the blood is the right color and consistency. That is never a problem, and I’ve never heard a complaint about it.

The gist of this is that your opinion of the effects is going to vary based on the entry you watch. I can show you the video I just mentioned, which features the Rake and Evan slashed up and visual and audio distortion, and you would think that this was a brilliantly edited series. Then I can show you the video where the boys walk around an abandoned school, and you’ll see Slender Man rendered poorly in the background– creepy, but not well-executed.

As the series progressed and the crew’s talents grew, the effects have gotten better. Don’t let the ones that aren’t as good change your opinion or deter you.

Then you have the fan interactions. Because the crew was originally dedicated so strongly to immersion, they were able to pull off some cool stuff, like talking directly to fans in character. Other series try to do this, but EverymanHYBRID really took it to the next level. They held a contest, they engaged with people on Twitter, they joined chat rooms, they had live streams, and, in their crowning achievements, they geocached boxes for fans to find.

They left cryptic clues in a bunch of videos that led to GPS coordinates. At each set of coordinates, there was a box. The contents of those boxes vary, but all of them are somehow relevant to the plot. A bunch of them contained copies of the documents of Doctor Corenthal, which is actually how fans found out about them in the first place! God, that was cool.

So why is it in the “Mixed” section and not the “Good” section? Because the other side of these awesome fan interactions is…

Bad:

Information is scattered across a ton of sources. This series can be difficult to follow. One of the things I love about TribeTwelve is that, if you want to know the story, all you need to do is watch that channel. Seriously, everything you need to know is there.

EverymanHYBRID asks a lot from you. To really get the entirety of the story that’s being told, you need to, at the very least, follow the main YouTube channel, Jeff’s brother Alex’s YouTube channel, the series Twitter account, and a random blog that was on Tumblr but is now hosted elsewhere. That’s just for the basics. It doesn’t help that Alex’s YouTube isn’t mentioned in the main channel at all– a fan found it through the “Related Videos” toolbar on YouTube. Further, the blog is only hinted at in the series– Evan happens to be browsing the blog in one scene in an early video, and it’s not easy to catch. I didn’t even know about it until I saw it on the series Wiki.

There is just a ton of information that is spread out across ten YouTube channels, three Twitter accounts and random documents found but never mentioned, including a bunch found by fans. They tried to remedy this by introducing the “Update Hub” video, which has links to a lot of the information in the description, but even that is missing things.

Thank God for the Wiki, or I would be totally lost. I really do wish that they had managed to keep the fan interactions and outside sources somehow linked in to their YouTube channel in some way beyond the Update Hub, because it would have made it much easier.

Then there is the most common complaint with Slenderverse series: the lack of new content.

EverymanHYBRID has slowed down considerably over the past couple of years. They used to put out a video about once a month, sometimes averaging more often than that. Last year, they put out a total of nine, four of which are crossovers and were posted on a different channel, and one of which was one of the crossovers, just shot from a different angle.

They seem to be picking back up again; the last two videos were only a couple of months apart, and the creators have mentioned that they are making a real effort to film more often. This is encouraging, because I want more. It’s kind of a testament to the series’s quality that I’m disappointed when I don’t have more of it to watch.

But the disappointment is real. I can’t blame the crew; they’ve been doing this for five years come this March, and they no longer live together. They all have jobs and real lives that take up a lot of their time, time that used to be available a few years ago. They give us what they can, as often as they can, and that’s the most I can reasonably ask for, but dang it do I want more, especially since it seems like they are approaching the conclusion of the series.

If they could somehow work it out so that they put out a new video once a month, I bet every one of their detractors would shut up. I have absolutely no idea how feasible that is, however. I can only hope.

Even if it is a fool’s hope.

Conclusion:

Though the series can be complex and spread across various media, it is well worth the effort it takes. Even if you do nothing but watch the main YouTube channel, you’ll be treated to a series that is wonderfully acted and excellently planned. I can’t possibly recommend it enough to anyone who is looking for some mystery that’s also kind of creepy.

Here are the links:

Main Channel YouTube

Alex’s Channel

CanYouSeeTheWords Blog

Series Twitter

EverymanHYBRID Wiki Community

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