In what can only amount to cosmic irony, movies have begun to use the popularity of Reality TV as inspiration for their own plot; if Reality TV was meant to satirize real life, movies are now satirizing Reality TV as a false vehicle for satirizing real life. Get it? “Series 7: The Contenders” turned shows like “Survivor” into a blood-and-guts version; as did the Japanese film “Battle Royale”, about students trapped on an island, with only one possible survivor allowed to leave alive.
The English production “My Little Eye”, a suspense thriller starring mostly Canadian actors and set in an isolated locale somewhere in Canada, takes aim at the Reality TV show “Big Brother” (and to some extent, the MTV nonsense “Real World”). “Big Brother” was about a group of people who must live in a house, and the last person to leave the house wins a big cash price. As the name implies, omnipresent cameras capture everything the contestants do, from showering to sleeping to everything else. “Eye” does its Reality Game Within a Movie concept just a little differently: 5 strangers must live in a creepy old house in the middle of nowhere during a brutal Winter for 6 months, while web-based cameras broadcast their activities to the Internet, and they will win $1 million only if no one leaves the house.
With only 5 characters to play with, writers David Hilton and James Watkins are able to give the different characters very individual personalities. There’s the introverted Danny (Stephen O’Reilly), the wise-ass Rex (Kris Lemche), the prudish Emma (Laura Regan), the slutty Charlie (Jennifer Sky), and the intense Matt (Sean Johnson). As the film opens, the 5 have already been living in the house for months now, and are only a few days away from winning their money. Everyone is determined to win until strange things start happening. For one, someone seems to be stalking them, leaving behind clues that brings up pasts the individuals would rather forget. Is the “Company”, the people running the webcast, toying with them? Are they trying to get the players to quit so they’ll lose out on the $1 million? Or is something else more sinister going on?
For the first 60 minutes of its 90-minute running length, “My Little Eye” is all invention. The film constantly switches between webcams perched around the house, capturing every scene from multiple angles, and zooming in and focusing out on interesting visuals. That isn’t to say the movie is all video footage in the guise of aesthetics. Even the “webcam” footages are actually film, but shot from such an angle that they give the appearance of being permanent fixtures ala a nailed-down camera.
Although it will probably be advertised as a Slasher/Horror film, “My Little Eye” is actually a Psychological Suspense Thriller. The film is about slowly but surely raising the level of tension and ending the whole thing with a bloody Third Act. I would have preferred if the film kept its psychological edge from beginning to end, but unfortunately the writers and director Marc Evans couldn’t resist turning the experience into a bloodbath. A decapitated head, death by asphyxiation, and gunshot wounds close things out.
As a film that plays on paranoia and self-doubt, the movie succeeds in spades. For the most part, the characters are so well drawn that we feel like we know everything there is to know about them, even though the film opens with the 5 players already in the house. Eagle-eye viewers will notice one minor discrepancy in the evolution of the characters: one character, in particular, gets almost no screentime at all. Anyone who has seen enough Slasher films will be able to figure out why. (Hint hint.)
Marc Evans directs “My Little Eye” with a terrific sense of voyeurism. The film moves very well, even though the characters almost never leave the house, and dialogue makes up more than half of the running length. There is very little action until the final 30 minutes, when the film wraps everything up in a nice tight bundle.
Which leads me to this: The whole question about the show and the mysterious “Company” are all answered at the end. This will no doubt satisfy a lot of viewers who requires absolute answers, but perhaps the screenplay might have been more effective if it had not answered everything. Because Evans has shot the film in such a voyeuristic (and very detached) fashion, not knowing who is being the game would have been more rewarding, leaving us as in the dark as the players.
“My Little Eye” is an effective little gem. It’s very inventive and although the whole Reality TV Parody genre is starting to get a little crowded, “Eye” still manages to rise to the surface as one of the finer films. Then again, why is it that every movie that satirizes a Reality TV show has to be about blood and guts?
Marc Evans (director) / David Hilton, James Watkins (screenplay)
CAST: Sean Cw Johnson …. Matt
Kris Lemche …. Rex
Stephen O’Reilly …. Danny
Laura Regan …. Emma
Jennifer Sky …. Charlie
Bradley Cooper …. Travis Patterson