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8MM (Blu-ray Review)

Back in 1999, I was pretty psyched for 8MM as it was the follow up film from the writer of Seven. Its well known the film Andrew Kevin Walker and David Finher delivered back in 1995 and there weren’t many like it. 8MM promised to deliver some kind of spiritual sequel to it. When it arrived, I found myself pretty satisfied with the film. In fact, the Joel Schumacher film that followed Batman & Robin was one of the first DVDs I ever purchased for my collection. Since, it’s never seen a Blu-ray upgrade. Thirteen long years later, the film is finally arriving, not because Warner Bros finally got there, but thanks to Scream Factory’s interest in putting it out. It carries over the previous bonus material and adds a nice new Joel Schumacher interview to tack on. You’ll be able to watch (If you can) when the film finally hits the shelves of your favorite virtual retailer on January 8th. 

Film 

Private detective Tom Welles (Nicolas Cage) lives a normal life with his wife (Catherine Keener) and young daughter, until he receives a startling new case. A widow named Mrs. Christian (Myra Carter) has found what appears to be a snuff film among her late husband’s belongings, and she wants Welles to determine if the movie is real or fake. Welles heads to California, where a video store employee (Joaquin Phoenix) helps him infiltrate the dangerous and depraved world of illegal porn movies.

8MM is a well made, dark thriller, but the subject matter almost feels too off and dated a lot of the time. If you allow it to play in its own world with its own morals, things work much better than if you want to “real life” or period piece the matters at hand. The film wants to be the sister film to Seven and at many points almost gets there, but its story and ideals are a bit too old timey to warrant that honor.

My biggest takeaway from the film was how good Joaquin Phoenix was in it. When I first saw the film back in 1999, he was my favorite thing about it and still is to this day. In what seems like just some random side player, Phoenix feels entirely real and lived in. One of those “just picked him off the street” kinda guys. Its an early film of his, but he holds up his end of the bargain and goes toe to toe with Nicholas Cage. They share a real chemistry and camaraderie that makes the film better the more the two characters spend time with on another.

Its a heavily stylized film, which is more in tune with Schumacher’s sensibilities than the capes and tights movies he’d done just before this. If you were familiarized or realized he was the director of such films like The Lost Boys, it comes as no surprise. Here he’s obviously seen the screenwriter’s previous big film and sensed that Fincher’s style really complimented the man’s words. While its not a complete copy, 8MM brings back that tone and takes it in a similar but unique feel all to its own. Just how well Schumacher tells the story, along with the roster of good performances really makes it hard to completely knock the film.

While I’ve long argued 8MM being the “Reefer Madness for pornography”, that’s a little bit harsh. Its actually a very well made and even better acted film than that bit of propaganda. The crew has done research but a lot of it feels phony or what we “thought” the industry was like back in the 1990s. There are some absolutely ridiculous things that happen in the film and the assumptions of the subject matter that might garner a chuckle out of a more modern viewer. It is what it is at the end of the day. Joel Schumacher at least proves right away here that he’s so much better than Batman & Robin and that movie a complete fluke on and exception to the rule on his filmography. As a mid-level detective film that has an old nun’s view own sex, its still a pretty entertaining and at time thrilling modern film noir tale.

Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1

Layers: BD-50

Clarity/Detail: 8MM’s Blu-ray debut from Scream Factory is merely fine, I wasn’t really impressed with the look. Hands probably are tied, but this looks like a regular HD transfer given here. By its nature, this is a murky looking film, but it hangs here, making this look like a softer jump from the DVD edition. Details are pretty solid and its overall improved from that, but it feels like 8MM has plenty of room to improve the image.

Depth:  The film displays some average depth here, where there are moments on streets or underground basement interiors that feel they could have appeared to be more spread out. Motion is fine with minimal blur or jitter issues on rapid action.

Black Levels: Blacks are deep and pretty consuming. There are a little bit of crushing instances about, but it does look a bit inky and helps to accentuate many moments.

Color Reproduction: Schumacher’s film isn’t as colorful as his Dark Knight entries, relying heavier on a popular green-ish filter. Some things in the daytime stick out a little better, but in his own words the “gritty” look zaps any sort of pop.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are a little on the colder side, proving consistent from start to finish. Facial features and textures come through well in close up shots, but vary in visible details the further out you get.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean

Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English 2.0 Stereo DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English

Dynamics: The 5.1 audio is a fine, if not more front-focused effort. There is a good mix and balance of vocals in dialogue, voiceover, music and effects that never bump into one another, nor do they really ever shine too much.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension: Techno music bumps, crashes, punches landing and gunfire all have a decent thump to them via the subwoofer.

Surround Sound Presentation: The 5 channel presentation takes care of business where needed in terms of things behind you or 360 degree sound travel. But it doesn’t go out of its way to be extravagant, much more complacent in the front channels.

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are clear and plenty discernible through any given scene. Cage’s voiceover feels a little more prominent by nature of the source.

Extras 

8MM comes with reversible cover art featuring an alternate poster design.

Audio Commentary

  • With Producer/Director Joel Schumacher

Interview With Producer/Director Joel Schumacher (HD, 21:08) – Schumacher was originally supposed to do another John Grisham movie but wanted to escape blockbuster filmmaking which landed him at 8MM. He’s mum about much to do with Andrew Kevin Walker aside from loving the script and calling him a “genius”. With the studio, he gave them two options; low budget, hand held and gritty with Russell Crowe or a bigger movie with Nicholas Cage. He goes over many of the cast members and his thoughts on them now and back when he cast them.  He goes over his research for the film, the subject matter, how certain ratings work and his thoughts on what classic films probably wouldn’t be allowed to get released nowadays.

Vintage Making-Of Featurette (SD, 5:07) 

Theatrical Trailer (SD, 2:35) 

TV Spots (SD, 1:04) 

Still Gallery (HD, 6:39)

Summary 

8MM is a film that’s both on the mark and off of it at the same time. Its very fascinating in many ways. Scream Factory has included a completely fascinating interview with its director, Joel Schumacher for its Blu-ray debut. And he is totally blunt and honest regarding everything. They’ve also ported over old bonus features on a rather average presentation on the film. Hardcores will pick this up right away, but those merely curious may want to hold on for a good sale down the road.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

2 Responses to “8MM (Blu-ray Review)”


  1. Brian White

    Thank you Scream Factory for at least giving this great Nic Cage film a home on Blu-ray even if it is murky. One day I hope to pick this title up when the price is right!

  2. Brian White

    Oh and impressive screenshots! Are those real?