MARCH 14, 2009
Someone recently expressed outrage that I hadn’t yet seen My Little Eye, and now that I have, I am unsure if he was upset that I had missed a great movie, or if it was simply too late now to appreciate it (if I could remember who the hell it was, I would ask him/her). When it was released, reality TV was all the rage and made up seemingly 60% of the broadcast schedule. Nowadays, the only ones on are pretty much the originals, and in most cases they are left on for ceremonial tradition more than actual relevance.
So yeah, it’s kind of outdated already. Making matters worse, or at least ironic, the ‘mockumentary’ footage movie is now all the rage, so seeing it after so many others, its novelty value is completely non-existent. The only surprise I got was when I saw that the cast of "unknowns" included Bradley Cooper, who pops up briefly as a possible mole for the company that is trying to prevent the group from collecting their million bucks, which they are only days from earning.
But that’s actually the main problem with the movie - they are in there for six months and everything is apparently perfectly fine, yet on the last few days they suddenly all snap? It completely negates the mystery angle: you KNOW someone is pulling the strings, despite the myriad attempts to make the audience suspect that its merely cabin fever FINALLY sinking in. Had they spread the story out a bit over time, it would probably be a lot more suspenseful.
The sound design also causes major damage. There’s a lot of annoying distortion and industrial music playing over “action” scenes, often edited in as jarringly as possible (and cutting out just as abruptly). If it were me, I wouldn’t have ANY music or sound effects at all other than source (meaning, songs on a character’s discman or whatever), but putting grating shit like this all over it just makes it worse, not to mention betrays the “reality” of what we’re watching. The song over the end credits (“Desolation” by Bikini Atoll) is terrific, however.
That said, Eye still packs a small punch. Because of the awkward setup, we’re also spared a long amount of screentime before anything interesting happens. Even though I know that it’s all staged, the isolated locale still makes it kind of creepy. And the actors are all good, and manage to more or less convince me of the reasons not to simply leave the house. And one character is led to his doom by his desire to play the shitty Evil Dead game for the PS2, a bit I found hilarious. You hear Bruce Campbell’s opening animatic voiceover droning on as the guy gets his head cut off!
Going into the extras, you see how maybe some of the time/pace issues may be a result of the re-editing. Apparently, the first cut of the film was four hours long (the final product is 95), and drastically re-jiggered after a disastrous test screening. This is discussed in detail on the making of, which is refreshingly straight forward and interesting, focusing on the director’s faltering film career as well as the editing and such, instead of EPK bullshit. A half hour’s worth of deleted scenes, most of which would occur in the films opening scenes (when they first arrive at the house) is interesting, primarily because it further illustrates how much of the film was lost.
There are also two commentaries. One is the director and producer droning on about the difficulties of making the film and how good the actors are, though there are still a few good anecdotes and observations to hear. The other is an “in character” track featuring “live comments” by the guys running the cameras and setting up the fake scares. That’s an awesome idea, but unfortunately the track is mostly silence - in the first 25 minutes of the movie they provide maybe two minutes’ worth of comments. I didn’t bother finishing it, but if you’re reading this review before seeing the movie and thus spoiling everything anyway, I’d recommend watching the movie with their track on; they hardly ever talk over anyone’s lines, and unless you love the movie unconditionally, there’s no way you’d be able to sit through the movie three times to hear everything.
In the end, it’s an interesting movie... but also already a relic. The reality TV angle is no longer as relevant, and the mockumentary approach has been taken to far greater heights (Paranormal Activity, for starters). And had they simply re-imagined the “twist” and made it known from the start (i.e. showing the bomb first, under Hitchcock’s famous example), it would be an entirely different and vastly more interesting movie, dated or not.
What say you?