There have long been rumors and urban legends about the existence of “snuff” films. The idea of recording the murder of a person for commercial use. Not the same as most of the stuff found on some of the better, more highbrow website that has existed over the years. That’s all stuff caught on camera by regular people, the news media or even cartel or terrorist executions. Entertaining as they may be, they aren’t true “snuff films.”
Snuff films, if they even really exist, and I’m sure they do, feature someone killed for the purpose of making the video. It may seem like there is no difference but there is.
But we aren’t here to discuss the intricacies of what makes a real snuff film, we’re here to talk about an excellent film made about the extremely sleazy subject. The Nic Cage movie, 8mm.
In 8mm, Cage is a private detective hired by a wealthy widow after she cracks open the personal safe of her husband who just recently went Tango Uniform. In that personal safe, she finds an 8mm film which she makes the mistake of firing up onto his projector. The film shows a younger girl beaten and then killed on camera. This puts her off her lunch as you can imagine so she gets her lawyer to hire Cage to try to find out if the movie is real or just a really good fake. She hopes to do this by Cage locating the victim/actress and finding her safe and sound.
8mm then plays out as Cage finds out who the girl in the film is through clever means, and obtains info from her ex-boyfriend and Mother. She ran away to California to be a big movie star (of course) and her Mom has heard nothing of her since. Never a good sign.
Hot on the trail, Cage lands on the left coast and hooks up with a fellow who works are a local hardcore porn store. Yes, there used to be such a thing before the internet found its true purpose in the universe. This young fellow he teams with is Joaquin Phoenix. Phoenix knows all the local smut peddlers and pornographers so he takes him (and us) on a tour of the seedy world of barely legal hardcore porn, AKA California.
In the process Cage tracks down the last known location of the missing girl, A porn studio run by James Gandolfini. He spooks Gandolfini via a telephone call and gets a reaction from him that tells Cage he has hit pay dirt. Cage traces back the number, Gandolfini calls in a panic to a director of extremely hardcore S&M porn and the two set off to try to get some more answers.
They arrive back in NY city and fall into a trap and the whole conspiracy is revealed. I won’t go into any more of it because it is a great reveal and leads to a tense, violent emotional climax.
8mm does not a happy ending for anyone involved.
8mm is a great detective thriller that is darker than black. The story is a nice slow boil with plenty of time to let the plot breath and to see the changes that happen to Cage’s character as he sinks into a dark world of hyper-perversion. One of the themes of the movie is how porn and the desire for more extreme porn wreck the mind. 8mm is ahead of its time for sure.
Not a hit with the critics of course. But filmgoers liked it. I really like it. It is my personal favorite Nic Cage movie. The story is ultra sleazy and sordid. Exactly the kind of things I like in a movie.
5 out of 5 Check out this forgotten gem from 1999.
And if the subject matter intrigues you, there is an excellent documentary on the subject that someone uploaded to youtube. I also recommend it.