Asst. Arts & Entertainment Editor
Have you ever felt a sense of dread and terror after watching something outside your comfort zone? Have you ever watched something so disturbing and grotesque that after it’s over you’re left asking, “What the hell did I just watch?” Look no further. The Walten Files is sure to keep you awake and paranoid all night long. Who needs sleep, anyway?
The Walten Files, created by Chilean animator Martin Walls, is a part of the ever-growing trend of “Analog horror” web series on YouTube. Analog horror series are usually told in the form of found footage, particularly VHS tapes. The story follows a restaurant called Bon’s Burgers, partially inspired by the hit indie horror game Five Nights at Freddy’s (FNAF), founded by Jack Walten and Felix Kranken in 1974. However, due to a series of unfortunate incidents, the restaurant quickly closed, and its parent company shut down in the early 1980s. On the surface, the series look like typical employee training videos, but they’re really meant to uncover the dark secrets Felix Kranken desperately wanted locked away.
Unfortunately for him, a woman named Sophie, who is testing out a new video game promoting the restaurant “Bunny Farm,” is about to open Pandora's box that might be the key to her regaining her forgotten memories.
No horror story has ever made me feel more shocked, devastated, and uneasy than The Walten Files. This series made sure that the images playing out were enough to deeply unsettle you to hell and back. I didn’t know what to expect, and that was the best part of the viewing experience. Genuine horror movies are a rarity today, with most reliant on cheap jump scares, coming across as lazy and formulaic. It seems like everybody is checking off the same traditional tropes in the horror list.
However, Martin Walls has created something truly haunting and disturbing. This series really ratchets up the tension and anticipation, keeping you on edge until it is finally over. Of course, this isn’t without a few flaws here and there. The overarching story is a bit convoluted with a tendency to drag out too long, with the third video in the series, “Bunnyfarm,” running almost an hour. Considering how the first two videos are drastically shorter, I feel like the third could’ve been condensed or broken into smaller episodes. There are too many pauses during this video as well, some long enough for anyone to zap a snack in the microwave.
The appeal of such a blood chilling web series comes from its presentation. Since Local58 uploaded its first video in 2015, analog horror has experienced a creative boom on YouTube. What makes The Walten Files a hidden gem among the rest is its use of animation. Most analog horror series are told through "recovered" VHS tapes, TV broadcasts, and home videos, like Local58 or The Mandela Catalogue. Meanwhile, The Walten Files utilizes these same methods while combining them with animation, enhancing the horror.
Despite my apprehension and unease, I think The Walten Files is worth the watch. This is meant for anyone with an interest in creepy, unsettling horror rather than the usual jump scares. It’s not only a fascinating analog horror series, but it's also a very human, relatable one.
Series like Local58 or the Mandela Catalogue take place in alternate worlds that have characters like aliens or demons terrorizing people. While often compared to Five Nights at Freddy's, there is a stark difference between the two. FNAF is a horror story about possessed robots. The Walten Files is ultimately a story about loss, trauma, and regret. It is a devastating family tragedy that just happens to have possessed robots sprinkled with a helping of murder mystery on the side.
The Walten Files was first uploaded on April 26th, 2020 and is available to watch and stream on YouTube. A second season is currently in production. Be warned that this is not for the faint of heart. Watch at your own risk.