Pamela De Graff (LittleMissBloodAndGuts)Burbank
Pamela's Recent Reviews
MY LITTLE EYE (2012) UK/ independent
WRITTEN BY: David Hilton and James Watkins
DIRECTED BY: Marc Evans
FEATURING: Sean Cw Johnson, Kris Lemche, Stephen O'Reilly, Laura Regan, Jennifer Sky, Bradley Cooper, Nick Mennell
TAGS: thriller, mystery, horror
RATING: 7 PINTS OF BLOOD
PLOT: Five contestants live on a reality webcast in a remote mansion, but when everything starts to go horribly wrong, is it by accident or design?
COMMENTS: Wait! I know what you're thinking! This movie is actually quite good! It's not a stupid teen slasher or a reality show! OK, actually it's about a reality show -like the TV game show, Big Brother, in which contestants are confined to a specially designed house, cut off from the outside world as in Bio-Dome. In My Little Eye however, the house is a decrepit, Gothic country estate, and it's really way the hell out in the snow-bound middle of nowhere.
My Little Eye was shot way back in 2002, but it never made it to US screens. Viewer feedback indicates that Big Brother fans don't like this film. It doesn't depict a reality with which they're comfortable.
It does however, make for a pretty good horror movie. The appeal to My Little Eye is in our trying to guess a step ahead of the action. As in similar films which begin with the same basic premise - a group of people brought together by an outside entity for an unknown purpose -Cube (1998), Saw (2004), The Killing Room (2009), Exam (2010), Open Grave (2014 -reviewed last month) -tension builds as ensuing plot points suggest and then eliminate numerous macabre possibilities.
In My Little Eye, the obligatory five stereotypical characters enter a contest. The players are credible at least; and not too unlikable. They're the ditsy, Generation X types you expect. The contest? Spend 6 months together isolated in a country manor for 1 million dollars. If anyone gives up and leaves, nobody collects.
What are the odds that they will win?
(Turning down lights, holding flashlight under chin.) What are the odds that the producers are up to something?
The later proposition might indeed be correct, or at least, that's what we start to wonder. The film's effective, brief intro bypasses corny exposition, and after the first three minutes, the film picks up the story a couple of weeks from the show's conclusion. The contestants are now jaded, bored, and planning how to spend the money.
Then the heat goes out and the food deliveries cease. A saferoom which is supposed to be camera-free turns out to be fully wired for sight and sound. The weekly supply drop-off consists of booze and a loaded handgun. What could go wrong with that idea? We're about to find out as a cloud of suspicion and paranoia descends upon the group like a Baby Ruth candy bar sinking to the bottom of a punch bowl.
Who is watching this reality show? If we knew, we might be able to discern answers. In the meantime, the voyeuristic camera angles make us feel complicit. There's something sinister about these cameras which seem almost to stalk the inhabitants, capturing their most intimate moments in both light and dark, even in the bathrooms.
My Little Eye isn't one of those pieces which is presented on surveillance cam as a cheap gimmick. The film looks and flows like any good movie. The camera work is skillful, with creative use of fixed positions to suggest that what we see is only that which the web cameras see. This is enhanced by actual surveillance camera computer screens with green time stamps, zooming in, employing night vision, etc. Minimal use of these shots creates atmosphere without being distracting.
Due to the filmmakers' good sense of style, the effect is eerie rather than annoying. The feeling is that we witness what we would see if we were peeping in windows -which in effect we are, because we've become the audience of the broadcast. Or have we?
We behold a rapid breakdown of the show's arrangement into a treacherous bog of hostility with fatal undertones. There's no control or supervision from the outside world. The players are given no guidance for handling troubling developments.
To the contrary, the stage is set to encourage a total loss of the social contract. My Little Eye's suspense is centered in the fact that neither we nor the participants can glean where all this is going. What are the true intentions of the show's producers? Is there someone else on the property? Is the house haunted? There is something more going on than just the contest. The producers read our thoughts, acknowledging and dismissing each possibility in turn. What the devil then, is the point of all this?
If the reality show concept is familiar, then My Little Eye's story takes a novel twist. The devil is in the details. If the contestants are willing to be stripped of all privacy -essentially dehumanized and probed, in an increasingly threatening situation, then what kind of people are watching?
CONTRACTED (2013) independent
WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY: Eric England
FEATURING: Najarra Townsend, Caroline Williams, Alice Macdonald, Katie Stegeman, Matt Mercer, Charley Koontz, Simon Barrett, Ruben Pla
TAGS: drama, sci-fi, cannibalism, rape
RATING: 6 PINTS OF BLOOD
PLOT:A young woman's already strained relationships are stressed to the max as recombinant DNA changes her into a monster.
COMMENTS: With credits such as Chilling Visions: 5 Senses of Fear (2013), Madison County (2011), and Roadside (2013), filmmaker Eric England is fast establishing himself as a credible horror writer/director. Contracted is his latest effort and it's fresh, saucy, and provocative. Contracted will appeal to fans of films about troubled femme loners, such as May (2002), Alyce Kills (2011), and Neighbor (2009), as well as to aficionados of gruesome bodily transfiguration flicks such as The Fly (1986), and the 2002 French shocker, Dans ma peau.
In this stylish but unpretentious, straightforward horror thriller, Najarra Townsend plays Samantha, a troubled young woman with a sketchy past and an uncertain future. Sam has a thankless waitressing gig in a pretentious restaurant, and is trying to win a scholarship to a trade school. Her goals are complicated by personal strife.
Sam's girlfriend Nikki (Katie Stegeman) is dumping her, she has a tenuous home relationship with her mother (Caroline Williams), and an uneasy alliance with her acquaintances, who are more interested in using Sam than seeing her as a person. Worse, Samantha is a recovering drug addict, so when her life goes awry, those around her assume she's merely relapsed.
And boy do things go awry. After a controversial sexual encounter with a shadowy necrophiliac embalmer who drugs her at a party (David Gomez), Sam's body begins undergoing really weird changes. Bad weird.
Sam's malady starts with some nasty personal bleeding and progresses to uniquely alien changes in her irises. Sam begins a grotesque metamorphosis that smacks of recombinant DNA not of this Earth! Sam needs serious professional help, but it eludes her. She's unwilling to confess the dreadfully personal nature of her symptoms and their origin.
Sam receives little support from those nearest to her. They're all so self-engaged in their own insular scenes, that they view Sam as being someone to use or react to, rather than being someone to engage. Even Sam reacts rather than acts.
Like Sam herself, everyone around her is in a state of denial fueled by their own superficiality. Denial is a sub-theme of Contracted. Sam cringes from medical intervention, even though its unpleasantness pales in comparison to her symptoms. Disguising her disease under makeup and sunglasses, determined to lead a normal life despite her infirmity, she ignores her terrible transformation in favor of priorities centered around her job, failing relationships, and her desire to maintain her trendiness.
Sam's doctor, probably the most inept physician since the era of bodily humors, can't believe what's happening to Sam. Even the authorities realize something's up, but when they try to locate the subject who's spreading the disease, Sam's best friend Alice doesn't report Sam's encounter with him. Instead she rats Sam out to Sam's girlfriend, Nikki (Katie Stegeman) who's more disgusted with the fact that Sam had sex with a man, than she is alarmed by Sam's dreadfully degenerating condition. Even Sam's frustrated suitor (Chris Candy) is so anxious to have sex with her that Sam is able, with a bit of subterfuge, to keep him from noticing that her body is rotting. Throughout Sam's grisly decline, her naive mom just thinks Sam needs motivational intervention
Nobody listens to Sam, and in fact, she doesn't offer to tell them much in the first place. It seems absurd, but given the glib narcissism of the characters involved, it's clear that everyone's vapid obsessions with the superficial elements of their lives take priority over Sam's living death. Self-absorbed, destitute of humanism, they're all in for a big surprise. Sam can only take so much, and the disease within her is squirming like a toad, and swelling up like a sun-drenched cherry tomato bursting with ripeness.
Sam is set to explode and when she does everyone had better get out of the way.
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