My Little Eye
Medium: film
Year: 2002
Director: Marc Evans
Writer: David Hilton, James Watkins
Keywords: horror
Country: UK, USA, France, Canada
Actor: Sean Cw Johnson, Kris Lemche, Stephen O'Reilly, Laura Regan, Jennifer Sky, Bradley Cooper, Nick Mennell
Format: 95 minutes
Website category: Horror modern
Review date: 21 July 2008
Here's a question. Why are there movies about internet reality shows (which don't exist in real life) but not about TV reality shows (which infest the schedules like maggots)? Admittedly Hollywood loves the internet. This baffles me a tad since I don't see why people sitting at keyboards should be an inherently interesting thing to watch, but that's clearly just me. However with my specific question, I think it's probably because webcams let you ignore production factors. A TV reality show would involve cameramen, editors, a production team, designers and all the other things that theoretically turn the raw material into something, y'know, watchable. Hence the lack of real-life internet reality shows.
However I also think movies don't really like the television industry. They'll steal from it, but they're not fond of doing fictional representations of it. You get movies about movies. You get TV about TV. However I can't think of much cross-pollination. The Truman Show, maybe. Tootsie, okay, but we're veering off-genre here.
Anyway, My Little Eye is a horror film about an internet reality show. There's a genre that dated fast. It's British but pretending not to be, filmed in Canada with American accents and the backing of Working Title films. As a movie it's okay, but what's really interesting is the DVD release and its Special Mode for watching the whole thing as if you were a real internet subscriber. As the film goes on you can even unlock further extra features, such as cutting away to other things happening in the house. This sounds like one of the cleverest uses of the DVD format I've come across and one day it might yet suck me into rewatching this film.
Nevertheless our world contains ying and yang. For every genius, there's a moron. Amusingly the filmmakers nearly got their film released straight to video by trying out a four-hour cut on test audiences. The reaction to this persuaded them to cut out 70% of its running time.
Anyway, that's not particularly relevant. Big problem: it's still about an internet reality show. Five housemates, one snowbound house out in the forest. However it's cleverer about it than Halloween 8: Look A Bandwagon or The St. Francisville Experiment and in the end becomes much more interesting than I'd expected. Halloween 8 was always going to be about Michael Myers, but this movie can keep you guessing almost to the end about fundamentals like "what's going on" and "so is there a psycho killer or what?" I'm sure it will play completely differently second time around. They even trumped all the little pedantic questions that I'd been saving up, such as with the organisers' strange decision to put more men than women in the house. Who wants to watch men? (Don't answer that.) The more women you put on screen, the more internet nerds you'll get dialling in.
If it helps, think of it as a stage play. Confined physical environment. Limited cast in a story set entirely in the real world. No aliens, dream sequences or CGI oogie-boogies. It's perfect. You could do this in a theatre without changing a word, although you'd be losing the ways they play with the medium. Webcams in a shower head or even a pen. Creepy green night-vision cameras in which people's eyes glow silver like vampires. There's also clever use of nudity, with web-o-vision to point out its voyeuristic nature, but then also a sex scene that's about the effect it's having on the rest of the cast.
As with Long Time Dead but less so, the problem is the characters. Of course it's better than that film was. It's a chilly, uninvolving attempt at British horror, but at least its cast are capable of some kind of intellectual inner life. They have proper conversations. They discuss important things. They talk about stalkers and murderers when the time is right, i.e. immediately before finding an outside door flapping open. I didn't find these young people off-putting as I did the losers in Long Time Dead, but instead found myself staring in bewilderment at a claustrophobic horror movie trying to work on tension and character interplay that nonetheless has only one and a half characters.
One and a half. No more, no less. The "one" is an offensive shit, but he also has some backstory you wouldn't wish on anyone and makes no attempt to apologise for either it or himself. I liked him. He's fun. The "half" is a girl with a past that may or may not be coming back to haunt her. That's it. The others barely exist. However I don't mean that in the usual sense, in which a film is trying to do characterisation and simply failing. We aren't given a chance to get to know these people at all, which I'm starting to suspect might be deliberate. We see them. Everyone's living together. They seem normal enough. However when things get nasty, it wouldn't surprise you at all if one of them got out a chainsaw and started massacring. For a while I thought the action climax was going to be a flop because I didn't really know or care about any of the characters involved, but then the film took a few more twists and rose considerably in my estimation.
It's an interesting decision and in its own way I respect the filmmakers for it. However the result is a less emotionally involving film than this might have been. I watched happily through to the end and was even quite impressed. I think it's clever. I think Hitchcock would have got behind it in a big way, but I suspect he'd have wanted a top-to-toe rewrite to shift the emphasis back on to character before he started shooting.
I'm not convinced by everything in the script. I'd have preferred a little more establishment at first that our housemates had already been there for six months, which threw me for a moment although it wasn't really a problem. More importantly, one character in particular is a retard. An idiot of blithering proportions. On reflection you could say the same about the entire cast... but then again, that's reality shows for you. That's almost the point of the movie, really. It's talking about both the kind of people who sign up for reality shows and the kind of people who watch them, in a speech or two from Mr Offensive Shit that could just as easily have been talking about me in front of my DVD player with a horror movie.
It also has some extreme music choices, although thankfully only in a couple of scenes. I don't even want to imagine an entire film scored like that.
This is the kind of film that at best you admire rather than enjoy. I think there's a lot to be said for it, but then again I'd just had any expectations of modern British horror shot down in flames by Long Time Dead. It's not a crowd-pleaser. It has integrity rather than anything you might recognise as fun. However it has a nasty, bleak ending and does far more than I'd ever expected with the most instantly dated movie genre of all time. I wasn't entirely sure what I thought about this film when I started writing this review, but I think I've talked myself into liking it.