Plot: The widow of a recently deceased multimillionaire found a disturbing reel of footage after her husband’s death. On the tape is a young girl, being tortured, raped, and eventually killed, by a hooded man with a table full of torture devices. She is shocked, and wants to know if the girl really died, or if in fact the tape was a fraud. She wants piece of mind, one way or the other. She is willing to spend whatever it takes, no matter it costs. Whoever takes this job can name their price. But, will they be able to look at things the same way after viewing this reel, and searching through the underground sex circuits, dealing with nefarious individuals, and whatever else it takes to find out if this girl is still alive? Who would take a job like this? Enter Tom Welles (Nicholas Cage), a private investigator, one of the best, if not the best. He comes highly recommended, and he agrees to view this footage. What he sees will never leave him and he is deeply disturbed by it, but thinks it may be a fraud. He agrees to take the case, and embarks on a journey he will never forget.
Entertainment Value: A dark, twisted journey that explores some of the darker corners of the underground sex trade, 8MM is a capable thriller that has a lot of polish, even when the content is seedy and depraved. The premise is interesting, with Nicolas Cage on the hunt for a snuff film operation and while some of the fetish and kinks are rather tame now, the film still retains an overall darkness that holds up, with a veneer of grime throughout. I like how 8MM starts in a dark place, then spirals into deeper, darker areas and does so with ever tightening tension. At the same time, while some elements feel like shock value fodder, the movie also keeps a steady hand on the narrative and characters, so it never comes off as shock for sake of shock. The tone is serious and always tense, but does allow for some darker strands of humor in a few instances, mostly in the banter between Cage and Joaquin Phoenix. The prominent characters are well developed, with time devoted to seeing some depth in them, especially Cage and Phoenix, but also Peter Stormare and James Gandolfini as well. So the writing is rock solid across the board, well above the usual thriller and that results in a more immersive, enthralling experience, one that keeps you hooked from the jump. The performances are quite good too, with Cage scaled back from the madness, Phoenix as a colorful inclusion, and Stormare and Gandolfini seep with sleaze, in perfectly tuned efforts. The 90s had some great dark thrillers and to me 8MM ranks toward the top of the heap, so this one earns a high recommendation.
This one has a lot of perverse atmosphere and situations, but not as much actual sleaze as you might expect. There’s a few topless scenes, most of which are fleeting shots in the red light district style locale, but some are more lingering, especially when Welles views the various snuff/porn tapes. Also have some bare ass, including a spanking scene and ever so brief full frontal in one instance. So while the movie takes place in the seedy, no holds barred underworld of sexual perversion, it remains focused on the characters, rather than the smut itself. On the bloodshed front, we have some assorted violence, some that has a sexual component, but not much of the red stuff. There’s some blade based violence, with stabs and slashes that yield some crimson, but most of the heavy lifting takes place off camera. So we might see the aftermath, but much of the kinetic violence isn’t shown. But we do get some fun with a crossbow and a wild gunshot to the neck, so those add some good times. The dialogue has a lot of kink references and such, as well as some dark humor in places, but overall not much that stands out as wild or over the top type stuff. As for craziness, while the movie does explore some dark, often sexual elements, the tone remains serious and tense, while the content never spirals into total chaos or darkness.
Overall Insanity: 2/10
The Disc: 8MM looks fine on Blu-ray in this Scream Factory release, but it won’t turn heads or be your go to reference disc. The visuals are dark throughout and while some detail is lost in the shadows, for the most part contrast is solid. The colors are muted, but that is intentional and part of the dark visual design approach. As for sharpness, this release has capable detail and depth, but looks dated and softer than you might expect, so an updated scan is needed here. The lone new extra is an interview with director Joel Schumacher, while ported supplements include Schumacher’s audio commentary track, a promotional featurette, tv spots, still photos, and the film’s trailer.