MY LITTLE EYE (2012) UK/ independent
WRITTEN BY: David Hilton and James Watkins
DIRECTED BY: Marc Evans
FEATURING: Sean Cw Johnson, Kris Lemche, Stephen O'Reilly, Laura Regan, Jennifer Sky, Bradley Cooper, Nick Mennell
TAGS: thriller, mystery, horror
RATING: 7 PINTS OF BLOOD
PLOT: Five contestants live on a reality webcast in a remote mansion, but when everything starts to go horribly wrong, is it by accident or design?
COMMENTS: Wait! I know what you're thinking! This movie is actually quite good! It's not a stupid teen slasher or a reality show! OK, actually it's about a reality show -like the TV game show, Big Brother, in which contestants are confined to a specially designed house, cut off from the outside world as in Bio-Dome. In My Little Eye however, the house is a decrepit, Gothic country estate, and it's really way the hell out in the snow-bound middle of nowhere.
My Little Eye was shot way back in 2002, but it never made it to US screens. Viewer feedback indicates that Big Brother fans don't like this film. It doesn't depict a reality with which they're comfortable.
It does however, make for a pretty good horror movie. The appeal to My Little Eye is in our trying to guess a step ahead of the action. As in similar films which begin with the same basic premise - a group of people brought together by an outside entity for an unknown purpose -Cube (1998), Saw (2004), The Killing Room (2009), Exam (2010), Open Grave (2014 -reviewed last month) -tension builds as ensuing plot points suggest and then eliminate numerous macabre possibilities.
In My Little Eye, the obligatory five stereotypical characters enter a contest. The players are credible at least; and not too unlikable. They're the ditsy, Generation X types you expect. The contest? Spend 6 months together isolated in a country manor for 1 million dollars. If anyone gives up and leaves, nobody collects.
What are the odds that they will win?
(Turning down lights, holding flashlight under chin.) What are the odds that the producers are up to something?
The later proposition might indeed be correct, or at least, that's what we start to wonder. The film's effective, brief intro bypasses corny exposition, and after the first three minutes, the film picks up the story a couple of weeks from the show's conclusion. The contestants are now jaded, bored, and planning how to spend the money.
Then the heat goes out and the food deliveries cease. A saferoom which is supposed to be camera-free turns out to be fully wired for sight and sound. The weekly supply drop-off consists of booze and a loaded handgun. What could go wrong with that idea? We're about to find out as a cloud of suspicion and paranoia descends upon the group like a Baby Ruth candy bar sinking to the bottom of a punch bowl.
Who is watching this reality show? If we knew, we might be able to discern answers. In the meantime, the voyeuristic camera angles make us feel complicit. There's something sinister about these cameras which seem almost to stalk the inhabitants, capturing their most intimate moments in both light and dark, even in the bathrooms.
My Little Eye isn't one of those pieces which is presented on surveillance cam as a cheap gimmick. The film looks and flows like any good movie. The camera work is skillful, with creative use of fixed positions to suggest that what we see is only that which the web cameras see. This is enhanced by actual surveillance camera computer screens with green time stamps, zooming in, employing night vision, etc. Minimal use of these shots creates atmosphere without being distracting.
Due to the filmmakers' good sense of style, the effect is eerie rather than annoying. The feeling is that we witness what we would see if we were peeping in windows -which in effect we are, because we've become the audience of the broadcast. Or have we?
We behold a rapid breakdown of the show's arrangement into a treacherous bog of hostility with fatal undertones. There's no control or supervision from the outside world. The players are given no guidance for handling troubling developments.
To the contrary, the stage is set to encourage a total loss of the social contract. My Little Eye's suspense is centered in the fact that neither we nor the participants can glean where all this is going. What are the true intentions of the show's producers? Is there someone else on the property? Is the house haunted? There is something more going on than just the contest. The producers read our thoughts, acknowledging and dismissing each possibility in turn. What the devil then, is the point of all this?
If the reality show concept is familiar, then My Little Eye's story takes a novel twist. The devil is in the details. If the contestants are willing to be stripped of all privacy -essentially dehumanized and probed, in an increasingly threatening situation, then what kind of people are watching?