Back in 1999, a thriller came out by the title of 8MM. It was directed and produced by Joel Schumacher (Flatliners, The Lost Boys, A Time to Kill), and concerned the hair-raising matter of a private detective investigating the case behind a possible snuff film made on --- you guessed it --- 8mm celluloid.
No matter how many horror films I watched leading up to this film's release, the subject matter had really freaked me out, and I avoided going to see 8MM in theatres. I did track down an unofficial DVD of Johnny Depp and Marlon Brando's The Brave, a still-unreleased (as far as I know) film about a man living on a Native American reservation who sacrifices himself to be in a snuff film in order to lift his family out of poverty. While the content of The Brave still centered around the same squeamish themes, I felt as if it was somehow going to be far less realistic and violent, and that's what my perception still is.
So now Scream Factory has released 8MM on Blu-ray, and I decided to finally watch the film.
The content matter is still disgusting, and it's supposed to be. It's gritty, engrossing, and quite horrific at times, and my guess is that there's no way Hollywood would greenlight this film today. It was a far better film than I was expecting, largely in part from an excellent script from Andrew Kevin Walker, the writer of Se7en, and good directing and action sequences. The acting ranges to great to laughable, depending on the actor.
Nicolas Cage plays Tom Welles, the investigator hired by an ailing, wealthy woman who's revered, pillar-of-the-community husband has died. She's found a film locked in his private vault which appears to show a girl being murdered on film. Naturally, she doesn't go to the police or FBI on account of being super rich and maintaining propriety for her late husband's name, and so hires Welles, who came recommended for his discretion.
But like all women who suspect that something's up with their husbands, the widow can't ease her conscience until she knows for sure what's happened.
Cage as Welles, follows a lead to Pennsylvania, then Hollywood, where he meets "Max California" played by Joaquin Phoenix, an intelligent musician who's lost in the crush of the dark Hollywood dream. He manages a seedy porn store and becomes a source of information for the underground porn industry and sex trade.
A trail of clues introduces us to Eddie Poole (James Gandolfini), who catches Welles' attention as a rather nasty hustler and pornographer of Celebrity Films, probably with a dark secret. Soon, the pair are off to New York to meet Dino Velvet (Peter Stormare), another pornographer with tastes that go far beyond that of a simple provocateur.
8MM is at its best when we see Cage's character arc develop from straight-laced to full-fledged unravelling, and it's riveting to watch. In short, I'm quite glad I decided to finally give 8MM a try.
As for the disc itself: the sound mix could be better, and the picture can be darker than it probably should be at times. The film grain is definitely apparent, but does lend to the filmic quality of the film. Overall, these qualities shouldn't impair your enjoyment of 8MM much at all, especially when you take into account Cage's bombastics --- he's quite good in this film.
I enjoyed the new interview with Schumacher, as well as the old-school featurette.
If you've never seen this thriller, you can check out the trailer and get your own copy on Blu-ray over at Scream Factory here.