My Little Eye
In cinemas from October 2002
Why do we watch reality entertainment? What is it about shows like 'Survivor', 'Temptation Island', and especially 'Big Brother', which makes them so appealing to the viewing public? Is it the greed and paranoia? The voyeurism and exhibitionism? The masks and role-play? The control and manipulation? The disruption of group dynamics? The conjunction of sincerity and performance? The possibility of audience participation and intervention? These certainly are the essential ingredients of reality entertainment, but they are also the lifeblood of horror, so little wonder then that reality entertainment should offer perfect material for horror films to explore, dramatise and exploit. We have already had 'Series 7: the Contenders' (very good) and 'Battle Royale' (good), and we shall soon have 'Halloween: Resurrection' (very, VERY bad), but Marc Evans' 'My Little Eye' is destined to do - and do definitively - for reality entertainment what 'The Blair Witch Project' did for documentaries.
The set-up for 'My Little Eye' is simple: five contestants in a reality webcast will win $1 million if they stay for six months in an isolated house filled with cameras and microphones - but if anyone leaves, everyone loses. After an introductory cut-up of the contestants' audition videos, and a rapid montage (with four-way split-screen and frenetically increasing tempo) of the day-to-day goings-on in the house, the film concentrates upon the contestants' final week together. So near to the end of the show, all five have been pushed to the edge by petty rivalries, sexual tension, sheer boredom, and an arbitrary reduction in their fuel and food supplies - all of which is accurately imitated from reality TV - but as confronting messages appear on the window, menacing objects appear in the house, and things generally go bump in the night, the contestants become increasingly convinced that someone - or something - malevolent is watching and toying with them.
The film's players are all relatively unknown (unless you're a connoisseur of extras from American television), and effectively naturalistic, so that you can easily forget - as you can with 'genuine' reality entertainment - that they are just acting. Of course, as with all great haunted-house films, the real star is the house itself. Snowbound (cf. 'The Shining'), imposing, absurdly decorated with mounted hunting trophies - the house oozes creepiness and claustrophobia. Every tiny sound, both inside and outside, is miked up close, conveying perfectly the hypersensitivity that comes with the contestants' cabin fever and paranoia. In this film, the sound of a pen scratching on paper, or of an electrified fence humming, is excruciatingly intense, while the sound of a light being switched on will make you jump from your seat. And of course, there's the ever-present whine of the house's electronic cameras, panning and focusing, trying to capture their prey.
Eye' has no conventional camera crew: every single image is mediated through
one of the many digital cameras (or little eyes) placed strategically
in and around the house, thus casting the filmgoer in the role of reality
voyeur - a role which becomes more and more uncomfortable as events unfold.
The cameras may be aimed on the contestants, but it is we, the viewers,
who are this film's real focus, as we are repeatedly confronted with the
question: why do we watch? and what is the precise nature of that peculiar
pleasure which only reality entertainment - and of course horror - can
Anton Bitel, 15.10.02