Director: Joel Schumacher
Screenwriter: Andrew Kevin Walker
Cast: Nicolas Cage, Joaquin Phoenix, James Gandolfini, Peter Stormare, Anthony Heald
Distributor: Scream Factory
Rated R | 123 Minutes
Release Date: January 8, 2019
“The things I do — I do them because I like them. Because I want to.”
Directed by Joel Schumacher (of The Lost Boys, Batman Forever, and The Phantom of the Opera) and written by Andrew Kevin Walker (of Se7en, Sleepy Hollow, and The Wolfman), 1999’s 8MM is a crime thriller about one man’s obsessive search for the truth about a young woman’s disappearance.
Nicolas Cage (Leaving Las Vegas, Mandy) stars as Tom Welles, a private investigator contacted by an attorney (Anthony Heald of The Silence of the Lambs) for a wealthy widow, Mrs. Christian (Myra Carter). While clearing out her late husband’s safe, Mrs. Christian discovered an 8mm home movie — one that appears to depict a real murder, but she needs to know for certain.
After looking through missing persons files, Welles discovers the girl is Mary Ann Mathews (Jenny Powell), and visits her mother (Amy Morton of Chicago Fire and Chicago P.D.). While searching the house, he finds Mary Ann’s diary, in which she says she went to Hollywood to become a film star.
In Hollywood, with the help of an adult video store employee called Max California (Joaquin Phoenix of Walk the Line, Her), Welles delves into the underworld of illegal pornography, making contact with sleazy “talent scouts” (James Gandolfini of The Sopranos, The Drop), directors (Peter Stormare of Fargo, Constantine), and masked film stars like “Machine” (Chris Bauer).
Schumacher’s descent into the dank, dark world of snuff makes for a disturbing crime thriller with great performances from a strong ensemble. Cage’s Welles is an amalgam of the two detectives in David Fincher’s Se7en — an ordinary family man who comes home to his lovely wife but an enigmatic detective as well, one who has seen the worst of humanity. And like Se7en, the purpose of the movie is to take this character and bring him face-to-face with an evil so vile that he’s driven to kill.
8MM is one of those forgotten late ’90s crime thrillers that deserves reappraisal. While it isn’t as strong as similar works like Blue Velvet, Se7en, or The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, it’s a surprisingly strong effort by Schumacher bolstered by one of Cage’s best performances.
Luckily, this underappreciated film is getting a second shot thanks to a definitive Blu-ray release from Scream Factory, the patron saint of forgotten genre films. For the first time ever, Schumacher’s film is available in 1080p high-definition widescreen, presented in its original aspect ratio (2.35:1) with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track.
Per usual, Scream Factory’s release looks and sounds great; definitely worth a re-buy for those still clinging to their DVD copies. There are a handful of special features including an audio commentary with Schumacher, a vintage behind-the-scenes featurette, and your standard assortment of theatrical trailers, TV spots, and still galleries. While there isn’t any newly produced content with Cage or the film’s other stars, there is a new interview with Schumacher, “8MM in 35MM,” that is a nice bonus.
Scream Factory’s 8MM Blu-ray is now available at Amazon. For more reviews of Scream Factory releases, click here.