Starring: Sean Johnson, Kris Lemche, Stephen O’Reilly, Laura Regan, Jennifer Sky, Bradley Cooper, Nick Mennell, literally nobody else
(holding a gun to the camera) “I know what this means. Fuck you. Do your fucking research, okay, ’cause him doing that to himself was the best thing that ever fucking happened to me. Fuck you.” (Rex, My Little Eye)
Although the whole ‘found footage’ thing has been done to death these days, it’s a little odd that the similar ‘hidden camera’ sub-genre hasn’t been quite as overused.
Both are of course similar – they both give the impression the audience is viewing real-life events through standard video cameras rather than a studio-made movie – but tonally, they can be very different.
My Little Eye, released over a decade ago (I went to see it at the cinema when I was at university: God, I feel old now), is a fine example of ‘hidden camera’ horror and proof that, when done well, it can lead to some effective stuff.
Five people sign up to take part in a reality TV show filmed and broadcast entirely online, and are promptly sent to a massive house in the countryside, isolated from the rest of society.
Their task is to spend a hefty six months living together in the house. Their prize should they manage it? An equally hefty one million dollars.
What’s the catch? Nobody’s allowed to leave. They can walk out of the house and explore its surroundings, but there’s a curfew every night and if all five of them aren’t in the house by the time it kicks in, they all lose. No money. Get fucked.
When we join the group at the start of the movie, there’s only a week or so to go before the six month target is reached and they all become millionaires. But the mysterious ‘company’ in charge of things is about to make those last few days as tricky as possible.
Weird goings-on start happening in the house, things that test the group’s willingness to stay. One poor chap, who’s close to his grandfather, receives a letter saying he’s died and the funeral is taking place in a couple of days. Naturally, this means if he leaves the house to attend everyone else loses too.
Another is sent a care package containing a gun. Noticeably angry, it becomes evident this a reference to something that happened in his past: specifically, his dad’s suicide.
Then there’s the distressed lass who finds a blood-soaked hammer on her bed, a nod to her ex boyfriend who killed both his parents with one.
Their sanity is tested even further when a seemingly lost hiker called Travis (played by a then-unknown Bradley Cooper) turns up at the house, claiming to have no idea who they are.
They begin to worry. Has this reality show become a flop? Are they in fact not the celebrities they thought they would become after leaving the house? Is this money even going to materialise?
Shit continues to travel in a downwards direction when Travis leaves, only for his blood-soaked bag to be found later in the woods. When the group use the GPS inside his bag to get online, they discover something truly shocking. As if I’d tell you what it is though.
Given that it’s more than a decade old now, My Little Eye feels a little out-of-date given that it’s supposed to be about people getting involved in cutting-edge technology.
The film is shown through various fixed cameras, many of which are deliberately low-res to give the impression that they’re designed for streaming online (whereas, of course, these days it’s possible to stream HD quality footage with very little hassle).
That said, director Marc Evans does throw in some interesting little effects, with a few nifty camera gimmicks designed to give the impression that nowhere is safe for the contestants to hide. A small camera hidden on the nib of a pen, for example, lets us see everything they write in their diaries.
It’s also got its fair share of twists and, when things go particularly downhill, a couple of pleasantly powerful deaths to ensure you can never really tell who to trust, right down to the final shot of the movie.
Dated though the premise and execution may be, My Little Eye is still a fun little thriller that shows a fun time can be had when all there is to play with is a single location and a grand total of seven different actors. It may be minimalist in scale but you’ll be compelled to stick around to see exactly what’s going on.
HOW CAN I SEE IT?
My Little Eye is only available on DVD, which sort of makes sense because it’s not supposed to be viewed in hi-def. Here’s the UK version and here’s the US version. Want to stream it? Tough.
SHOW ME THE TRAILER: