Wednesday, March 27, 2013

What Happens When People Stop Being Polite...& Start Getting Dead

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.

High Notes
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

Low Notes
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

Lessons Learned
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.


  1. I haven't watched this in a very long time (I own the DVD) but I do remember feeling this lingering sense of dread for the characters when I first saw it. And being a fan of Big Brother and (a former fan of) the Real World it was an interesting "snuff film" take on that genre of reality shows. The DVD does feature a "casting/auditioning" segment where the actors are in character talking about the show as you mentioned and there is also a commentary track with the "The Company", the nefarious people behind the scenes who are responsible for the contestants' ultimate fates.

    Getting back to the Real World (which I stopped watching long ago) they were showing old school eps of Seasons 1 (New York) and 3 (San Francisco) on MTV last weekend in anticipation of the new season (Portland) which is launching soon. Anyway it made me nostalgic for the early seasons from my teen years that showed interesting people (Pedro, anyone?) who actually had lives and jobs and weren't constantly getting wasted every other episode and hooking up with everyone in sight. Sigh. I feel like I'm coming off as old and grumpy but really the later seasons seemed to go downhill after a while, it became formulaic, filled with stereotypes rather than actual people. But hey, the show has managed to stick around for 20+ years (wow has it really been that long?) so what do I know, right?

    By the way, have a great Easter weekend Emily :)

  2. Oh Dorian, I'm TOTALLY with you when it comes to The Real World. I came to it late, but caught a marathon of seasons one weekend right before the debut of Boston. I was HOOKED. As much as MTV is, well, I don't know WHAT it is now, that period up until the end of the '90s really did give the young folk a place to hang. I watched Boston and Seattle and was positively fascinated, then Hawaii came along and everyone was a trisexual drug addicted drama queen nudist. Now I love my trisexual drug addicted drama queen nudists as much as the next gal, but when you throw seven of them together, it's just manufactured pain. I stopped there and have never gone back.

    Happy Easter to you too Dorain!

  3. "Series 7: The Contenders" I agree with you is a very underrated movie and one which thankfully more people are picking up, as it makes its way through the blogging community, much like this film whose UK release also allows you at certain points of the film to switch between cameras (not as exciting as you would think). I would also recommend checking out "kolobos" for more game show horror, another title which has been sorely overlooked for sometime.

  4. Ooooh I've never heard of Kolobos, and I do indeed LOVE ME some game show horror. Another interesting, if messy entry is $lashers ("Slashers" spelled with a dollar sign) made by the same guy who did the wonderfully underrated End of the Line.

    Just queued up Kolobos. Apparently, if I like it, I might also like Bride of Chucky. So I think I'm in good hands.

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