I first saw this movie back in 2000 and it really shook me. The greatest quality of 8MM is the fact that it’s delightfully subversive in almost every aspect. By pulling the veil off of this carefully constructed system of values it exposes this whole new world that you never thought existed. The truly frightening moment comes later when you realize that this secret, “taboo” world is actually interwoven with the “real one” so seamlessly that we cannot be talking about two different things. This becomes apparent with the time Tom spends with his family and on the job. But I’m getting ahead of myself. What I’m trying to say here is that this movie is pretty fucking disturbing.
And not Se7en (same writer) disturbing but genuinely disturbing as it explores some issues we usually don’t think about. Dealing not only with the murder of a young girl but also pornography, 8MM ventures into the dark without a light to illuminate it. It doesn’t want to do that because it would serve no purpose. It’s one of the first neo-noir movies I have ever seen and it stayed with me ever since. It has this malevolent and visceral atmosphere spurred on by incredible performances by both Cage and Phoenix. There are several scenes where the camera just hangs in the air leaving us paralyzed as we’re watching something that just feels wrong. It’s a testament to Joel Schumacher and the rest of the crew and all of their hard work.
Private investigator Tom Welles is not well. He just saw an 8MM film that shook him to his core. His latest client, the wealthy widow Mrs. Christian found it among her husbands’ belongings and wants to know what’s going. So, Tom sets off into the dark and twisted world of porn, snuff movies, and some other, far worse things.
In case you haven’t heard of snuff movies, you will now. They contain footage of actual murders making them practically unwatchable for most of us. However, there are some people who just can’t get enough of them. And this is what this movie explores. These people, their urges, and the whole industry around them. Perhaps the most disturbing element here is that without a doubt these are humans we’re talking about. I should probably stop here before I go full rant on ya.
In my humble opinion, 8MM is Nicolas Cage’s best movie. It’s like he was born to play Tom Welles. And say this fully knowing that he had some great performances both before and after this movie. However, I just can’t forget how committed, honest and emotionally draining was his performance here. So much so that it took the light off freaking Joaquin Phoenix and James fucking Gandolfini. And just how smooth Peter Stormare was with that fucking move? Fuck, is this a good movie or what? It even features a Danzig fan.
Finally, I also can’t help but notice just how well 8MM follows the old-school noir formula. You have a missing young girl, wealth, power, troubled PI, and a generally fucked up story. If you’re looking for similar movies, you should check out Night Moves and Hardcore. Both shot in the seventies, they feature a relatively similar story, especially Hardcore also revolving around a porn movie. So, be sure to check them out along with our Rabbit Reviews selection of Noir Movies. Enjoy.
Director: Joel Schumacher
Writer: Andrew Kevin Walker
Cast: Nicolas Cage, Joaquin Phoenix, James Gandolfini, Catherine Keener, Peter Stormare
Fun Facts: The enema porno film seen at the porn swap meet is a genuine S&M film that was heavily edited for inclusion in the main movie.