Why Is Joel Schumacher's '8MM' So Unappreciated?
Starring Nicolas Cage, Joaquin Phoenix, James Gandolfini, Peter Stormare and Catherine Keener. Directed by Joel Schumacher. Written by Andrew Kevin Walker, writer of 'Seven'; 1999's '8MM' was a talent packed and twisted noir thriller turned revenge story that went either completely unnoticed or totally shit on by critics and audience members alike. Currently, it sits at a 21% rotten critics score on Rotten Tomatoes with a 52% rotten audience score and an uninspired critics consensus of "Its sadistic violence is unappealing and is lacking in suspense and mystery."
I am Jack's vehement disagreement.
Let's start with the casting. If your film calls for a weird, slightly edgy, Edward Norton pre-Tyler Durden 'Fight Club' type but with strong morals so you can watch him go off a cliff in the seedy underworlds of porn? Who the hell else is there to cast other than Nicolas Cage? A sneaky smart, Capote reading punk rock porn store clerk with the keys to the underground of the black market porn industry he loathes? You mean we can get young Joaquin Phoenix for that? Score. JAMES GANDOLFINI as an alternate universe scumbag Tony Soprano and physical intimidator for our good guys? (Mob voice) Get the fuck outta here!
Now let's talk story. Private Investigator Tom Welles (Cage) is hired by a rich old lady after she finds an 8MM of a snuff film in her deceased husbands safe. Welles and the audience watch the film in horror in which a dude in S&M gear brutally murders a young girl.Think the tapes from 'Sinister' mixed with those 'Faces of Death' videos from the 90's. We'll see quite a few of these videos as the investigation takes place and it's always uncomfortable and take a shower afterwards worthy. Tom is now charged with the task of finding out if A) The video is real and B) If so, who murdered her? His investigation leads him to the seedy underworld of black market porn where not only is his life threatened. His sanity begins to unravel as well. There's only so much time you can spend watching porn and smoking cigarettes in seedy hotel rooms before shit starts to go all wacky up top. Add to all of this the stress of a wife and newborn at home waiting for him.
That's a great fucking story guys! Come on! It's original, it's provocative, it gets the people going! So we have a great cast. We have a story that really grabs you by the soul and only gets better when it becomes a revenge flick in its final act. The good guys are multidimensional and the bad guys are evil, disgusting and downright scary. The film has it's own look and strange but original music. Cage is understated at all the right moments, unhinged when the script calls for it and believe me; the shit he sees calls for it a few times. And it has a satisfying and emotional ending.
I'm sorry but I think '8MM' is one of the most underrated films of all time. This is just one of those films where I have no idea what the critics were watching. Was it the subject matter that turned off the audience? There's some grimey shit that happens here but not too much that I hadn't seen before. Maybe in 1999 it was too much? Taking a look at other films that released the same year you had 'Fight Club', which actually made a bit less than '8MM' if you can believe that, 'Any Given Sunday' had as much or more male genetalia than '8MM' had. There were still some ballsy movies coming out back then. Could you imagine 'Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me' coming in third place at the yearly box office in 2020? We're way more sensitive now than we were then so, what is it? I'm lost on this one folks. We end where we began. So, for the sake of something good coming out of this. Give '8MM' a chance and let me know what you think.
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