Reality TV has become a hot issue and after Big Brother's third outing in the UK, there seems no limit to the international appeal of voyeurism. Even boredom isn't a turn off.

My Little Eye recreates the now familiar formula of contestants in a cage. There are differences, however. The prize is $1million. If anyone leaves, the game's over. Five players - three guys, two girls. Duration - six months.

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The house is real, rather than a collection of studio rooms in a specially constructed compound. Also, it's way off in the woods somewhere, in winter, with snow on the ground.

The feeling of isolation is complete, a perfect breeding pen for paranoia. The digital camerawork and computerised sound effects contribute to the fear factor, similar to The Blair Witch Project's use of crude video imagery.

In the end, it comes down to personalities, which is where Marc Evans's film has the advantage. These people are not idiots, like in Blair Witch. They have genuine lives, dysfunctional perhaps, but only too believable and certainly not brain dead.

Series 7: The Contenders parodied extreme reality game shows and The Hole explored the claustrophobic impact of a weekend in a disused nuclear bunker with chilling effect. My Little Eye avoids kitsch, camp and pastiche. Evans is serious and his use of mainly static photographic techniques brilliantly reproduces a CCTV view of the world.

As their time nears completion, the pressure heightens for the five. Incidents occur that indicate a more active involvement from the unseen organisation that produced the show.

"They don't want us to make it," Rex (Kris Lemche) warns, darkly. "They don't want to pay."

On first impressions, Rex is the least co-operative and most psychologically disturbed. He has no illusions ("I'm here for the money. What's your excuse?") and can't be arsed to hone his social skills for the sake of harmony. He becomes a catalyst, because he sees right through the fabric of deception. With the others, there is wishfulfilment, based on false hope and unrequited romanticism.

Evans is a Cambridge educated Welshman, filming in Nova Scotia with a committed group of unknown actors. The film fits into a genre that has been overexposed, redolent of a thousand clich├ęs, and yet remains uniquely itself, vibrant with originality.

It is possible to pick holes in the plot, but not in the impact it will have on an audience.

Reviewed on: 13 Aug 2002
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People agree to take part in a reality TV experiment, which will see them share an isolated house for six months. But with a week to go, do their backers want them out?
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Keith Hennessey Brown ***

Director: Marc Evans

Writer: David Hilton, James Watkins

Starring: Jennifer Sky, Stephen O'Reilly, Laura Regan, Sean CW Johnson, Kris Lemche

Year: 2002

Runtime: 95 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: UK, Canada


EIFF 2002

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Series 7 - The Contenders