It just so happens that I have two films in my horror DVD collection that revolve around a group of 20-somethings gathering in a house for some sort of “reality” show (not counting Halloween: Resurrection). They are Kolobos (1999) and My Little Eye (2002). Even though I’m watching my horror films alphabetically, I thought I’d watch these two back to back because of the similar premise, and because people on the message boards like to compare them. The general consensus is that My Little Eye is way better. But me being me, I much prefer the more simplistic yet effective and highly rewatchable Kolobos.
The spin that Kolobos takes is that a bunch of 20-somethings are brought together in a house for an “experimental movie.” There are cameras all over the house and the cast is expected to interact in a Real World scenario, so, yeah, it’s basically a reality show. And it’s also a creepy little movie. It has everything. Argento-esque lighting in reds, greens, and blues screw with your mind as they strobe on and off, causing you to hallucinate monsters in the shadows as much as the lead character, a young woman with some serious mental issues. Is she imagining the horrors, or are her visions real? There are faceless people wielding knives, creepy mannequins, gruesome deaths via brutal booby traps set up around the house, disembodied voices, and a nasty looking deformed killer.
Once this film gets going, it’s the perfect balance of gore, tension, and tight camera work that keeps you on the edge of your seat, all handled very well in the confined setting of the house (after the kids get locked in). And best of all, the handful of characters may seem generically stereotypical of all slasher films at first, but they quickly break those personality restraints and prove to be very likable.
And it gets some bonus points for featuring an odd cameo by none other than Linnea Quigley that seems more like an afterthought than part of a master plan. Especially considering she doesn’t take off her top, and when has that ever happened in a horror film featuring Linnea Quigley???
The loftier My Little Eye goes for a much more complex approach, with loads of character development (aka: tons of drawn out dialogue!). It also much more of a whodunit than a horror movie. Our group of victims in this movie have gathered at a large isolated house in the snowy woods for a webcast reality show. The goal is, whoever can stay the longest wins a load of money (inspired by the original House on Haunted Hill I assume). So why should the contestants believe that anything suspicious is up when freaky things begin happening? It has to be a part of the game just to scare them off.
I personally find that this film follows a much more mainstream template. There are loads of stereotypes: The prudish lead girl, a “sweet” wimpy dude, the greedy self-involved bastard, a slut who immediately hops into bed with the stranger who appears at the door, oh, and the mysterious stranger, played by hot hot hot Bradley Cooper. We are treated to a long sex montage, with everyone in the house hearing it from different rooms as a raucous song with lyrics like “suck my titties” blares. The film also relies heavily on typical hard orchestral stabs to create its atmosphere and faux scares. There is also some Argento-esque lighting, but it’s worked into the concept of the film, with the green saturation moments being the result of night vision on the reality show cameras and the red light being the result of, well, a red lamp hanging in one of the rooms!
The film doesn’t particularly sustain its suspense, and the excessive dialog is delivered too dramatically and even melodramatically. Unlike the realistic panic that ensues after all hell breaks lose in Kolobos, in this movie, once the bodies pop up and the still living figure out they are part of a vile reality show, they still decide it will be okay to go to sleep in their own rooms as long as one of them stays up and keeps watch. The movie mostly fails to deliver on death scenes, but it does have an interesting “twist” ending, so you get some payoff that way.
But the bottom line is, once you’ve seen My Little Eye, there really isn’t much reason to see it again because it’s just not very captivating. Kobolos, on the other hand, might be a considered a lowbrow production by most viewers, but that’s why it gives you a bunch of cheap thrills you can experience again and again.