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Site created 12/15/97.

review added: 10/4/99

8MM (Eight Millimeter)
1999 (1999) Columbia TriStar

review by Todd Doogan of The Digital Bits

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

8MM Film Rating: C+

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): A/A/B

Specs and Features

123 mins, R, widescreen (2.35:1), 16x9 enhanced, full frame (1.33:1), dual-sided, single-layered, Amaray keep case packaging, theatrical trailer, featurette, commentary track with director Joel Schumacher, cast and crew information, film-themed menu screens, scene access (28 chapters), language: English (DD 5.1) and (DD 2.0), subtitles: English, Close Captioned

"You dance with the devil and the devil don't change -- the devil changes you."

When 8MM first popped up in theaters, I really wanted it to be "important." I wanted it to mean something. At the time, I was pulling in research information about the porn world, and a common question had always come up: "Is there really any such thing as a snuff film?" The answer was always no. Whoever answered the question -- police, producer, director or star -- no one had ever seen one, nor did they ever want to see one. I really find it hard to believe, in this day and age with as many murders and the proliferation of video technology, that the police hadn't stumbled on a cache of videotapes showing murders mixed with sex. Then it occurred to me that, even if the police did, they wouldn't talk about it. They'd just destroy it and say, "nope, there are no snuff films." And you know what? They wouldn't be lying. So who is lying? Who cares really? The simple fact of the matter is we, as human beings, are sick enough to create them in legend or material form, and therefore they will always exist.

Like Nicholas Cage's character Tom Welles, in 8MM, most of us have seen things that forever change our perceptions of what life truly means. Unlike him, I wouldn't take any of them away -- I need them, because I am creative, and creative people need those things in their lives to build upon. Cage's character isn't very creative. He's a very mellow, down-to-business private detective. He's cultivating a higher class of client, and he's very proud of his practice. Some of the things he does bring out the darker sides of life, but if you are right and true, then exposing others faults isn't such a bad thing. The saying goes, "let he who hasn't sinned throw the first stone." And when we first meet Tom, he has a pocketful of stones.

One day, Tom is called to the huge Christian estate, where he is shown a very sensitive piece of film (a snuff film), and is asked to determine its authenticity. Tom's search for the girl who appears in the film, leads him on a very dark journey of the human soul. He soon meets people who don't truly seem to belong in the world they live in, like Max (Joaquin Phoenix), or even the girl in the film, Mary Ann Mathews. Various people do belong where Tom finds them, like porn director/egomaniac Dino Velvet (Peter Stormare), slimy video producer Eddie Pool (The Soprano's James Gandolfini), and the mysterious Machine (Chris Bauer), the dark star of the snuff film.

8MM isn't the best movie, but it's not the worst. I think it suffers from a schizoid style, where it really wants to be a update of Paul Schrader's remarkable (and under appreciated) film Hardcore, starring George C. Scott. But it also wants to be like Seven (the other Andrew Kevin Walker scripted film), and a Nic Cage action fest. I would bet you the original screenplay for this film read different than this, and much darker, and this would have been a better film if the script hadn't been changed. As it stands, 8MM has some really cool elements, and some stuff I really do wish I hadn't seen.

The DVD is very good - a nice tight Columbia disc with all the usual attention paid. The transfer is flawless, 16x9 (on the letterbox side) and with really great sound. The viewable extras are sort of minor, with a trailer, and a short marketing "making of" featurette. I'll tell you what though -- the one thing that makes this a disc hard to not run out and pick up right now, is the director's commentary. It's really, really good. Schumacher is a filmmaker not very well respected on the Internet (thanks to his Batman films), and it's a damn shame. He's not a bad filmmaker, nor is he a bad person, and he does a great job presenting both identities on this disc. I really enjoyed listening to him on this track. He discusses porn, the dark and the mainstream sides of it. He talks about filmmaking, giving out good nuggets to future filmmakers on what to do and what not to do. He even suggests some stuff for fetishists out there. Schumacher really changed my view of his work here, and does a lot to show people that he really cares about filmmaking. Sure, his taste may not be to everyone's liking, but he really shows that he loves what he does, and I appreciate him for it. Sometimes he misses the mark, but I think he really tries to make good movies for us, the lovers of movies. Anyone who likes movies, of any kind, will enjoy listening to him. He gives a miniature film class, which works well on this disc.

The one thing that pisses me off about the disc, is that Schumacher talks about a 3 hour cut of the film... but there are no supplemented scenes. What's with that? If the cuts were made by the MPAA, then they should have been put on here as a director's cut. Maybe Schumacher doesn't believe in that -- he doesn't say why they aren't here, but if there's about an hour of cut footage, I would have liked to have seen that stuff. At the very least as separate scenes.

8MM is definitely not for everyone. The subject is dark, and the quality of the storytelling is questionable, but at times it proves to be somewhat well made. Overall, I liked 8MM because of its better moments, and after listening to the commentary, I came away with a better impression of the film, its filmmaker, and some of the choices made. At the very least, it's something worth renting just to listen to the commentary. It'll open your eyes.

Todd Doogan
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