It's rare that a game show horror film slips under my all-encompassing radar, but that seems to be the case with 2002's My Little Eye. Thankfully, the wonderful Christine Hadden of Fascination With Fear recently highlighted this little indie for a winter horror special. My completist tendencies paired with the convenience of Instant Watch? Just try and stop me!
Quick Plot: Five twentysomethings are chosen to participate in a 6 month long Internet reality show akin to Big Brother, where they're isolated in a country home with the reward of $1 million...providing all five remain on the property for the program's duration. This being a horror movie, you can bet your Survivor torch that our fame-hungry contestants are going to run into some roadblocks 5 months, 3 weeks, and 6 days after signing their release forms.
Filmed, I assume, on a microbudget, My Little Eye is not a good-looking or perfectly made film. The visual graininess and cheap sound cues are tolerable due to the nature of the film's webcam basis, but the overall effect ends up being rather ugly to look at. Thankfully, My Little Eye makes up for its style with genuinely unnerving and surprisingly fresh substance.
Released in 2002, My Little Eye must have been made in the cultural fervor of early 21st century reality boom. Remember Halloween: Resurrection, where Tyra Banks and Bustah Rhymes produced a Michael Myers-infused web series? Same year. The American version of Survivor was just a toddler at 2, while Big Brother was beginning its world domination plan, making MTV stalwart The Real World feel strangely long in the tooth. Reality TV was no longer a passive activity in which we watched lives get lived; it was a competitive event, one that demanded winners triumph and losers suffer. The Real World might have given prized screentime to its sexy young people's romantic exploits, but Who Wants To Marry a Millionaire?'s sponsors demanded a glitzy wedding and legally binding marriage (that naturally ended in an annulment quicker than a Kardashian affair).
Though nowhere near as sharp (or funny) as the still-underrated Series 7: The Contenders, My Little Eye is a surprisingly strong entry into the game show horror subgenre. The mostly unknown cast (save for a pre-ubiquitous Bradley Cooper and one of the ill-fated roller coaster survivors in Final Destination 3) manage to pull off the not-so-easy feat of being believable human beings who would put themselves in this kind of situation. The script..... packs some neat twists, toying with the idea of the producers-behind-the-curtain being creative sadists who deliver bricks and a loaded gun in place of food. There's even a slightly new spin on the tried and true prank-gone-bad trope so common in '80s slashers.
Does My Little Eye surpass the satiric chill of Series 7 or the full blasted awesomeness of The Running Man? Not a chance, but this is a fine entry into a subgenre that has yet to grow old (at least in my I-actually-watch-Love-In-The-Wild obsessive opinion). My Little Eye offers quite a few interesting twists on its straightforward concept, and while the budgetary restraints do keep it far form greatness, this is a strong, intelligent little film that's well worth your time.
I love a film that actually challenges its characters to define their sense of morality, and My Little Eye approaches such a quandary with plenty of juice
Pity the financially challenged sound man who has to resort to slow motion deep voice antics. Pity the audience who has to wince through them
The Internet = The World Wide Web
You can learn a lot of shit at computer club
Statistically speaking, strangers rarely kill strangers
My Little Eye is a tad constrained by its budget (it looks and sounds like it was made on a teenager's 1990s-era allowance) but so long as you can put aside some polishing standards, this is quite a treat. While I watched it on Instant Watch, word on the Internet Super Highway tells me the DVD includes alternate commentary tracks with actors discussing the 'show' in character. That in itself is groovy enough for me to say buy.