Before he was People Magazine’s “Sexiest Man Alive” in 2011, Bradley Cooper had a teeny-tiny bit part in the Horror flick My Little Eye. My Little Eye was Welsh-born director Marc Evans’s Hail Mary movie; having just helmed back-to-back flops (Resurrection Man and Beautiful Mistake) the filmmaker feared a third strike would signal the end of his career. And it almost did! Test audiences were vastly unimpressed with a 4-hour version Evans had initially hoped to release. Not surprisingly, potential distributors ran for the hills and the movie almost went straight to DVD. When Evans hacked My Little Eyes down to an hour and a half, it was given a theatrical release, but initial feedback was lukewarm at best. Eventually, the film’s popularity grew leading some critics to label it a sleeper–and Evans is still directing movies to this day.
Check out my review after the jump.
Official Synopsis: Five young people apply to live in an isolated house together for six months whilst their every move is filmed by numerous cameras. Each has their reason for wanting to be there – fame, money, adventure. The prize – $1 million. The rules – if one person leaves, everyone loses. It becomes the ultimate morality test. When Danny’s beloved grandfather dies, does his greed overcome his love? When the skittish Emma finds blood on her pillow why does she still stay behind? And what dark secret does the house harbour that leaves them feeling as though they’re being watched by more than just a million pairs of eyes?
American cultures (and the world, really) has been so inundated with “Reality Shows” over the past decade-plus, it’s hard to remember a time when this type of programming felt fresh and exciting. Likewise, web-based entertainment is extremely prevalent, with many media junkies forgoing TV and movie-screens all together in favor of a super-fast laptop. For these reasons, 20o2’s My Little Eye looks and feels a little dated. I’m sure some younger aficionados won’t even recognize the modem sounds woven in with other ambient noises throughout (how long has it been since anyone’s heard one of those?).
Still, we can appreciate the fact that, when it was released, My Little Eye was extremely topical. We can therefore look at Evan’s subtext and conjectures as rather prophetic of eventualities that have since been realized. I’m talking about: Obsessions with fame and the amorality of money-based competitions that borders on prostitution; unscrupulous producers manipulating “reality” from behind the scenes; opportunistic millennials willing to forgo an actor’s salary simply for the reward of being televised nation-wide. In the past 13 years, “Reality” programming has sunk to shocking and embarrassing depths, resulting in both injuries and suicides. Peoples’ lives have been upended and destroyed by the desire to join celebrity ranks. Increasingly clandestine cameras invade and document even the most intimate of moments. The internet provides a forum for everyone and everything–no matter how unsavory. From protected perches of anonymity, the twisted and perverse can find whatever their devious hearts desires. And My Little Eye predicted it all.
My Little Eye gains additional significance when viewed in the context of it’s era, receiving its Theatrical Release than one year after 9/11. Let’s not forget that for almost a weeks straight that September it was impossible to escape those images of death and destruction. It forever changed our perceptions of horror and terror, what it looks like and how we process it. It was a time when reality was suddenly infinitely more foreboding than any Hollywood ghost or slasher. The “Found Footage” subgenre was hitting it’s upswing, reflecting this shift in dynamics; films perceived culled from “real” footage echoed those post-9/11 anxieties giving them an aura of legitimacy and authenticity. In these ways, My Little Eye was the right movie at the right time, hitting a uniquely 21st Century tone when we were still struggling to define it ourselves.
When not appreciating My Little Eye for its insight and/or historical relevance, it’s a problematic film for certain. I’m not talking about the acting which is stellar all around; each of the 5 main characters is believable and convincing, even when emotions boil. The production value and presentation, however, leave much to be desired. Shots are often fuzzy, limited, and artificial. The sound was even worse; more annoying than the endless chatter of the film’s electronic soundscape was the fact that the dialogue was often muddled. I actually had to turn the subtitles on a few times when voices were barely more than whispered mumbles.
It’s not just that a film like this could be made better these days on an iPhone, it’s that Evans and his team could have done better back in 2002. I understand the fact that the scrip demanded an amount of improvisational flexibility, but important points need to be communicated clearly; a less attentive viewer could easily tune out. Even cut by over 2 hours, My Little Eye still feels about 15 minutes too long; it’s not necessarily that the footage wasn’t entertaining, but the intensity definitely peaks early and then slows to a crawl. And, a personal grievance: I’m bummed that a relationship between Rex (Kris Lemche) and Charlie (Jennifer Sky) was insinuated but never confirmed. I would have liked to have seen that!
While I don’t usually mention bonus features, the DVD for My Little Eye includes modes that will let you experience the film from different perspective: Behind the cameras as opposed to in front of them, shoulder to shoulder with members of “The Company”. There are also “real time” options that lets you explore what was going on in other areas in the house when we had previously been on a set trajectory. It’s not really my cup o’ tea, but it’s way more interesting that your garden variety deleted scenes and commentary.
The setting of My Little Eye is nothing less than perfect; the slightly dilapidated mansion produces an almost supernatural undertone in a film that’s otherwise firmly planted in reality. The surrounding forest elicits an Evil Dead vibe that compounds the sensations of entrapment and isolation. There’s a lot to like about this movie but, if I’m honest, I’d hypothesize that the poor production and uneven pacing will keep even enthusiastic aficionados from fully investing. It also sucks for this film that “Found Footage” has become such a bloated subgenre; there’s a palpable fatigue surrounding anything that can draw a comparison to The Blair Witch Project. And there are much better examples of film that truly exemplify both “Found Footage” and “Mockumentary”.
You won’t necessarily be sorry you sat through it, but unless you’re willing to dive deep like I did, you may find the experience rather average (at best).
2.5 out of 5 Skull Heads.
|Directed by||Marc Evans|
|Produced by||Alan Greenspan
|Written by||David Hilton,
|Starring||Sean Cw Johnson,
|Editing by||Marguerite Arnold|
Working Title Films
|Distributed by||Universal Pictures (UK)
Momentum Pictures (UK)
Focus Features (USA)
Odeon Films (Canada)