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Review by Aaron Beierle | posted January 5, 2000 | E-mail the Author

Joel Schumacher's "8mm" tries for a sort of bleak elegance, but beyond the outer layers of attempted style, the inner layers of the film are mostly empty. The film takes what seems to be ages to get started and the sort of bleak tone that starts off as visually interesting gradually begins to feel stale as the film goes on and the only thing that I found of much interest was the wild score by Mychael Danna("The Sweet Hereafter"). The film spends the first half creeping along, slowly moving in no particular direction and then suddenly, with a few turns, it finally speeds towards it's finale.

Nicholas Cage stars as detective Tom Welles, called to the house of an older woman who has found a snuff film in the safe of her husband. Welles's job is to disprove it's reality. What starts off as an average police film gradually starts going further underground as Welles must venture into the seedy underground to solve the case, meeting along with such people as an adult film shop employee named Max("Return To Paradise"'s Joaquin Phoenix).

"8mm" simply stops to spend far too much time forcing us to watch more and more disturbing imagry when it should be moving the pace and story further along at a much faster pace. The film would have worked far better had Schumacher gone with a "less-is-more" style to the imagry. A lot of horror films and especially "The X-Files" has learned that what we don't see( and likely just hear ) are far scarier than piling the dark and evil imagry on us. But more than that, we're not given a reason to care about what's going on, or why should we watch further. Cage's performance as a man who loses his sanity on his journey into the underworld is fine, but other than that, the rest of "8mm" is two hours of empty gloom and not recommended.

VIDEO: Tristar has done some very solid work lately, even improving on their past excellent efforts on new discs such as the recent special edition of "Central Station". "8mm" is no different, another very solid transfer by the group at Tristar, especially good looking considering the dark nature of the images. Even in the darkness , the image still retains a good amount of detail and the daylight scenes are especially clean, providing a strong amount of detail. This is a 2.35:1 anamorphic transfer(there is also a full-frame side included) and the majority of it looks wonderfully clear, sharp and clean, definitely a "film-like" transfer. What also helps is the lack of artifacts- no shimmering, no pixelization and no blemishes or scratches in the print itself. Colors are rendered accurately as well and although this isn't exactly a "colorful" or "vibrant" looking film, the image does nicely portray the film's gloomy, gritty color palette. Black level in the image is well-defined and strong and contrast is fine as well. Flesh tones are accurate throughout all of the different lighting in the film. The only problem that I had, and it's a rather minor one, is that the sort of smoky scenes that occasionally pop up throughout the film don't quite look smooth; they look a little on the soft and hazy side. Overall though, really strong work by Tristar capturing the bleak look of "8mm".

SOUND: A haunting and effective sound stage whose greatest asset is the previously mentioned score by Mychael Danna- a fantastic score filled with Moroccan drum beats and strong bass. Even when the film isn't in an action scene, the sound stage has an "open" quality to it that's quite cool; the sort of environment of some of the underground rooms are created nicely with a haunting echo quality to the dialogue. Surrounds are used nicely and fairly often as well-especially during the action, but still, the part of the equation that I found most enjoyable was the score. Dialogue is fine.

MENUS: Suprisingly, Tristar has opted for non-anamated, basic film-themed menus. Not bad, but there could have been more done with these menus.

Commentary: Director Joel Schumacher contributes a rather unenthusiastic sounding commentary, but even so, he brings forth quite a bit of information and background on the sort of violence that the film portrays. He also mentions how he worked with the MPAA to cut the film and the information is so interesting that I wished that he would talk more about it- in a time where the MPAA's work is coming into question, it would be interesting to hear how a director on a film like this edited a film to an R. Schumacher has a lot of good details in his discussion about not only the details of the production and locations, but what it was like to work like with these actors. He also serves up quite a few interesting stories about the details of the production and a lot on the research and facts that were done before filming. Even though I didn't care for what Schumacher did with this film, it's an interesting commentary worth a listen.

trailer The trailer is included

Documentary A slightly above average featurette that covers the basic interviews with the cast and crew, but also contains some fairly interesting footage of the production at work. It runs a few minutes in length.

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