Internet Mayhem at the Speed of Dial-up: A Review of My Little Eye (2002)
by Amy M. Vaughn
27 October 2019
My Little Eye is a Canadian “survive the game” type horror movie, directed by Marc Evans. Five contestants have to stay in an isolated woodland house together for six months. If none of them leave, they win a million dollars. Webcams positioned throughout the house provide a live feed of their every action to viewers online. Or so they have been told.
The movie opens with a split screen fast-forwarding through the five months and three weeks the contestants have already spent in the house. The montage concludes to reveal the five of them eating dinner together in the kitchen. They partake in banter meant to delineate the straight, attractive, white twenty-somethings from one another. There’s fast girl Charlie, slow Danny, bad boy Rex, golden boy Matt, and Emma, for whom Danny and Matt have both fallen but we aren’t really sure why, besides hotness and proximity. She might be a precursor to the manic pixie dream girl only without the manic part.
The first half hour of the movie is slow, setting up their boredom and isolation in the remote house. A heavy snowfall adds to the claustrophobic atmosphere. Besides no one getting laid, there isn’t much tension between the characters. None of them hate each other, which is hard to believe after so many months of being isolated together. There are a few jump scares, people walking up on other people unawares and lights turning on for no reason. But nothing of consequence happens until a young, blond Bradley Cooper comes to the door.
Cooper’s character, Travis, claims to have gotten lost skiing. Though he is a programmer and “lives online,” he says he’s never heard of them. This is upsetting because they’ve been led to believe they would be internet famous by now (although that term won’t exist for another decade). Travis parties with them (how they still have pot is a mystery) and then has sex with Charlie, after which he looks right into a camera and says, “I told you I’d fuck her.”
With one day to go, a number of things happen, one of which is they find Travis’ backpack smeared with blood and another is that Danny, due to several personal blows, hangs himself. When no one comes to retrieve the body, Rex tries to use Travis’ computer to contact someone for help. While online, he discovers there is no show, at least not in the sense they were expecting.
After much off-screen hacking, Rex finds their website, but it has an outrageously high pay gate. Once inside the site, it shows each of their pictures next to a set of odds. Rex, who is my favorite character and whose only flaw is that he says everything twice, figures out that they’re in the online version of a snuff film.
Now, finally, the real game is on. I’ll leave this for you to watch for yourself, not least because there may or may not be a mole, depending on how you interpret certain dialogue. I find it straining credulity to think that one of them lived with the others for five months and twenty-nine days knowing they were eventually going to fight them to the death and never slipped up.
Given that it was 2002, this movie deserves some credit for its premise: it’s Big Brother (1999-today) meets Black Christmas (1974), or it could have been. The idea of being watched online 24-7 would have been relatively new and still creepy at the time, and the webcams themselves are used to nice, sinister effect. The building blocks are there, but they filled the house with characters who are bland on top of bland. They even showed the group watching The Breakfast Club (1985), a bit of self-referential humor. And while The Breakfast Club may have stood up over time, My Little Eye shows its age.
Beyond its datedness and lack of interesting characters, one thing about the story never sat right with me. I have a well-honed ability to suspend my disbelief, but even I can’t swallow the idea that big spenders are going to pay tens of thousands of dollars to watch five milquetoasts go about their daily routine for half a year before anything happens. Not even in 2002.
My Little Eye deserves credit for its fantastic premise. The movie could be remade today with a different cast and few story tweaks, and it would be eminently watchable. The way the film is now, it’s not a bad way to pass an hour and a half if you’ve got it to spare.
3 out of 5 screeching dial-up modem sounds
My Little Eye is available on HBO Go.
Amy M. Vaughn writes weird little books. Among them are Skull Nuggets (Bizarro Pulp Press) and The Shelter (Cabal Books, forthcoming). She is also serving as editor for Dog Doors to Outer Space: A Compilation of Bizarro Writing Prompts (Filthy Loot, forthcoming). Amy lives in Tucson and online wherever writers go to avoid writing.