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It's been a while since we've had a horror film that doesn't rely on a pretty cast and light-relief humour to detract from a true sense of foreboding. Since Wes Craven reinvented the genre in the 90's with 'Scream' (after he's already revived it in the 80's with the 'Elm Street' films), there has been a conscious shift away from films like 'The Texas Chainsaw Massacre', that didn't feel the need to give the audience any respite from an unrelenting feeling of horror.

'My Little Eye' is a definite shift back towards that 'old school' of horror film making - with mixed results.

A simple setup is put in place during the opening credits. A web site asks for five volunteers to participate in a 'reality webcast' whereby the chosen few will spend 6 months in a remote house, with only each other (and a host of webcams) for company. If they succeed, they win a million dollars. If a single person leaves, they all lose. We see the volunteers arriving at the house and getting settled in and then we fast forward almost six months. Only now do we actually get to really meet the characters and it's clear that during the time they've spent together, friends and foes have been made. The fact that the audience isn't privy to the history that has passed between the group helps to increase the feeling of voyeurism, especially when coupled with the fact that the whole film is played out from the point of view of the webcams dotted around the house.

As the final day approaches, boredom gives way to unease amongst the group as it appears that outside factors are trying to scare one or more of the volunteers out of the house, thereby forfeiting the prize money for all. Word amongst the group decides that 'The Company' behind the website has dug deep into their past and is pulling out all of their skeletons in order to make one of them crack. Practical jokes become more and more serious. And then the bodies start to show up.

It's easy to dismiss this as "Blair Witch meets Big Brother", but that's probably doing a disservice to all parties. Where 'My Little Eye' succeeds is how it creates a true sense of unease, almost right from the opening frame. The fact that we are seeing everything via the static web cameras dotted around the house leaves the audience feeling like they're in even less control than in a regular movie. Subjects aren't always in the centre of the frame, the camera doesn't necessarily pan to keep up with the action, focus isn't deemed to be a necessity.

Where it fails, is in the relationships between the characters. We are asked to believe that these people have been living in each other's pockets from six months and yet, there doesn't seem to be any real camaraderie between them. Whilst it's clear that relationships have been forged, they are drawn in such broad strokes that it's difficult to empathise with any of them. And when things really go from bad to worse, as the film nears it's climax, all friendships go out of the window as each character becomes selfishly obsessed with their own preservation. Maybe that's the point the film makers are trying to make - that everyone is ultimately selfish, but I just found it a little jarring.

There is very little gore to be had in 'My Little Eye'. Much in the vein of 'The Texas Chainsaw Massacre', the audience will leave thinking it saw more than it actually did and for this, the filmmakers should be congratulated, after all there is nothing more powerful than the power of suggestion. It's just a shame that some hackneyed direction and underdeveloped characters undermined what could have been the best horror film in recent years.


Sean G