There’s a horror sub-genre that exploits the latest game/gameshow fads, recent examples being last year’s Escape Room, the Apprentice-style Exam or the downright horrific Starter For 10. So while we wait for the inevitable Zoom-based quiz massacre flick, we revisit My Little Eye – a reality webcast where five players must spend six months in a house to win $1 million.
Perfectly capturing the zeitgeist in 2002 and now a nasty little time capsule, this innovative British found footage film confronts increasingly exploitative reality TV and escalating surveillance post-9/11. The webcam-shot horror plays out like Blair Witch meets WebCameron, making the audience the webcast viewers to emphasise our complicity. Crucially though, the direction is not static or slow like Paranormal Activity with its fixed CCTV and long periods of inactivity – cameras are smartly placed all around the house including in torches, providing POV footage for the most suspenseful moments.
Though found footage came to mean cheap, lazy gimmickry, here the form is essential to the content; closer to The Haunting in its symbiosis between theme and cinematography, and its atmospheric approach to interpersonal horror. Director Marc Evans uses every possible trick to implicate and unsettle us, from split-screen and night-vision to feedback-heavy sound design that whirrs and glitches and distorts as though streamed through dial-up internet – it feels almost quaint to hear the retro modem tone at the start of the film, and downright alien when someone asks: “Are you on the internet?”
This is the original cyber-slasher, its limited characterisation a vast improvement on the Unfriended-type movies that followed. The cast includes Ginger Snaps‘ Kris Lemche, a young blonde Bradley Cooper and Laura Regan, almost a double for Mia Farrow in Rosemary’s Baby. Variously motivated by fame, cash or experience, they go from whining to The Shining in this claustrophobic closed circuit of a movie. Big Brother would meet horror again in Charlie Brooker’s Dead Set and whichever series Jim Davidson was on, but the interesting and ambient My Little Eye marks something beginning.