Neil Young’s Film Lounge – My Little Eye



UK/Canada/US 2002 : Marc Evans : 95 mins

Though shot in Nova Scotia with North American actors, My Little Eye is a British production a cut above recent UK genre entries like Revelation, Long Time Dead and Dog Soldiers. Its essentially an old-school horror movie tricked up with new-school technology and zeitgeist-surfing nods to the internet and Big Brother-style reality TV. In terms of recent movies, the basic horror-equation is Series 7 meets Session 9: a murderous reality based broadcast, shot with grainy digital vision and even grainier digital sound, following hapless potential victims as they wander down the dark corridors of a remote rural building.

Snared by an internet advert, five contestants are selected to spend six months in an isolated rural mansion. If all five manage to last out to the end, they will win $1m (presumably split five ways, though this is never made too clear) The action proper begins in the final week of the stay, with the winning post in sight. A series of increasingly sinister events start to take their toll on the residents: introspective Danny (Stephen OReilly), clean-cut Matt (Sean C W Johnson), nice-but-dim Charlie (Jennifer Sky), cocky rebel Rex (Kris Lemche) and nervy Emma (Laura Regan). Is The Company trying to scare them into fleeing the house in terror? Or could there be a more sinister explanation?

The pay-off is, unusually for a horror movie, the most satisfying aspect of My Little Eye there’s no shortage of ideas here, the contestants growing suspicions about The Company producing an agreeably unsettling mixture of paranoia and claustrophobia. Concept-wise, scriptwriter David Hilton has one foot in the control by external forces territory of The Game and Das Experiment, and another in the more familiar zones of terror established by the likes of Halloween and Blair Witch.

Like Blair Witch and Series 7, My Little Eye is constructed entirely from found footage: everything we see is picked up by the hundreds of hidden cameras supposedly positioned all over the house, complete with a tinny whirring whenever one of the pans or zooms in on their subjects. Director Evans and cinematographer Hubert Taczanowski get a little carried away at times, inserting gimmicky shots taken from the ends of a torch and pen, but other innovations are much more successful. They make especially spooky use of the night vision button on their DV cameras, making the characters retinas glow an eery iridescent white among the dark green shadows.

My Little EyeThe young, no-name cast do well with their deliberately bland characters: especially noteworthy are Regan (coiffed, shot and lit to resemble Mia Farrow in Rosemarys Baby) and Lemche, who has a great scene where he languidly ticks off the web-casts ghoulish viewing public and thus, implicitly, the films audience as well.

When push comes to shove, however, Evans isn’t quite up to the nuts and bolts of the horror genre. The most effective shocks are the most basic old-school boo jolts but when the bodies do finally start piling up, there’s an increasing reliance on distractingly flashy camerawork and an even more distractingly heavy-handed use of pounding music. This clumsiness is most evident in a decapitation scene near the end Evans makes brilliant use of sound (the victim is watching a film on TV) then goes and ruins the effect by switching into juddery slow-motion for the swing of the axe.

There are more serious problems with the script not least the fundamental structural awkwardness of, barely minutes in, spooling forward from the groups arrival to their final days: we never really feel that these people have been holed up together for six whole months. While Evans does his best to build tension, he’s repeatedly undermined by the numerous holes in the plot and, worst of all, the identity of the killer is too easy to spot, too early on: though not quite as easy and early as in Session 9, it must be said. And its conspicuous that most of the second halfs plot points depend on the very handy visit of an outsider who leaves behind all manner of handy gadgets and tools. But the final reel is sufficiently strong to outweigh these quibbles bold and dark, with plenty of blood on the floor.

18th August, 2002
(seen 14th, Cameo Edinburgh – Edinburgh Film Festival)

For an interview with the director Marc Evans click here

For all the reviews from the 2002 Edinburgh Film Festival click here.

by Neil Young