In today’s world of Internet voyeurs and exhibitionists, there is no limit to what you can see and do online. Want to post a video of yourself yodeling to Taking Back Sunday? Go for it! Want to see a goat knock over a small child? Then just google it. The only limit is your imagination. But there was a time when this emerging open forum was approached with a degree of fear.
In the early days, the internet was a lawless frontier where anything was possible. This is obviously still the case now, but in the early 2000s the wild west quality and endless boundaries of it were new, captivating, and also scary. In 2002, there were only 3 million websites compared to nearly 600 million today, and most people logged on for less than an hour a day compared to nearly five hours today. “Online” was still an unknown frontier, and we were only just discovering the sinister potential of it. Director Marc Evans’s 2002 film MY LITTLE EYE was one of the first films to exploit this fear by presenting us with an idea of just how sinister this new world could be.
MY LITTLE EYE is a British horror film inspired by the British TV series BIG BROTHER. In the film five contestants are picked to live in an isolated house for six months while cameras live stream their every move. If they make it the entire six months then they all get $1 million. Just like in the TV series, the house is outfitted with cameras fixed on every corner of the house broadcasting every embarrassing and dramatic moment. The contestants are all under the impression that this is being done for a popular website, and that they will not only emerge a million dollars richer, but they will also be stars headed for TV and movies. (The idea of being “internet stars” was unheard of at this time.) With their only contact being the occasional box of food left outside the house, they wait for the six months to end. However, along the way, the company in charge begins upping the stakes, and the five contestants begin turning on each other.
Watching the film now, I’m reminded of how uneasy I felt when I first watched it back in 2002. The scary Internet subject matter was a common horror trope in 2002, but the fact that it was one of the earliest examples of digital filmmaking on a feature film scale made the film unique. At the time there was only a handful of movies that utilized this new emerging technology. Hal Hartly’s 1998 film THE BOOK OF LIFE, Lars Von Trier’s DANCER IN THE DARK, and Spike Lee’s BAMBOOZLED (both from 2000) were some of the first films to show us the experimental filmmaking potential of digital filmmaking. In all three of these films (and MY LITTLE EYE), the camera felt like a spy or voyeur intruding in on the story. The look and style of digital filmmaking in its early days never let us forget that we were watching the world through a camera, and in that regard, it made the viewer feel uncomfortable, but still kept us watching. MY LITTLE EYE takes advantage of this. Although at times the camera does break out of realm of believability, for the bulk of the film the cameras are ever-present mysterious beings leaving the audience wondering who is controlling or watching and why.
Even today as we have all grown callous to the notion that sinister people use the Internet for evil deeds, MY LITTLE EYE still holds up as a solid thriller with a great twist. Featuring a few familiar horror faces like Kris Lemche (EXISTENZ, GINGER SNAPS, and FINAL DESTINATION 3), as well as Laura Regan (DEAD SILENCE and HOW TO BE A SERIAL KILLER), most horror fans will enjoy this early 2000s nostalgia trip. As an added bonus you’ll even get a glimpse of an early Bradley Cooper fresh out of the Actor’s Studio and just off the set of WET HOT AMERICAN SUMMER. Cooper plays a computer programmer who finds the isolated house after being becoming lost and handsomely disheveled in the woods.
MY LITTLE EYE is a great film to revisit or see for the first time, especially if you want to know or remember what it was like during those early days of the internet when it took ten minutes to download a song and Friendster was the future of social networking. MY LITTLE EYE has never made it beyond its initial DVD release, but lucky you can pick up a copy on Amazon for just a few bucks.