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8MM - Columbia/Tristar Print E-mail
User Rating: / 6
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Written by S. J. Alpino   
Friday, 11 January 2008

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AKA:Sexy World
Directed by: Joel Shumacher
Written by: Andrew Kevin Walker
Produced by: Judy Hofflund, Gavin Polone, Joel Schumacher
Cinematography by: Robert Elswit
Editing by: Mark Stevens
Special Effects by: Richard S. Wood, Albert Griswold
Music by: Mychael Dana
Cast: Nicholas Cage, Joaquin Phoenix, James Gandolfini, Peter Stomare, Anthony Heald
Year: 1999
Country: USA
Language: English
Color: Color
Runtime: 123 Minutes

Severed Cinema - DVD Logo
Video: NTSC R1
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0, Dolby Digital 5.1
Distributed by: Columbia/TriStar

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It's time to strap on the leather and descend into the Dante's Inferno-esque landscape of "8MM". Joel Schumacher, fresh off his slaying of the "Batman" franchise with "Batman and Robin", directed this tale of a private dick in search of the pornography industry's Boogeyman: the snuff film. Also known as "white heat" and "the real thing," a snuff film is a pornographic film which climaxes with the actual murder of an actor in the film. This urban legend was spawned by Allen Shackleton in 1976 when he re-titled the abysmal Roberta Findlay film "Slaughter" to "Snuff" and included a new coda which supposedly depicted the actual murder of an actress in the film. Ever the huckster, Allen Shackleton paid women to protest outside of the NYC Grind-house theaters playing "Snuff" to add to the mystique and sinister aura of the film. The F.B.I. and Manhattan District Attorney's office even investigated the film, but quickly came to the conclusion that the ending was simply Hollywood magic rather than a true crime captured on film. Even with this dismissal of its authenticity as a tangible entity and subsequent investigative inquiries from law enforcement officials from around the world that continually disprove this urban myth, the "snuff film" legend continues to scare and titillate writers, audiences, and film-makers as the ultimate representative of prurience and Western decadence.

Private detective Tom Welles (played by Nicholas Cage) is the definition of vanilla. Aside from business trips following wayward husbands partying with their mistresses in Florida, Tom Welles is your basic run of the mill white middle class suburban God worshiping tax payer. Even sexually, Tom enjoys "making love" with his wife in the classic missionary position ( I prefer reverse anal cowgirl myself unless I wish to give my lady a special treat by giving her the "pink sock", then it's doggie all the way!) at least until their infant daughter Cinderella interrupts their intimacy. Tom, ever the caring husband and doting father, is the one to comfort his baby girl after she awakens during the night. Tom's only vice is smoking which his wife Amy, played by Catherine Keener, is quick to try to squelch, but as the events turn darker and darker she might as light up with Tom. A surprise phone call from Mr. Longdale, portrayed by "Silence of the Lambs" Anthony Heald, attorney to recently deceased billionaire Mr. Christian starts Welles on his journey into the abyss.

An 8MM reel of film was discovered in the late Mr. Christian's safe. Mrs. Christian is convinced the film depicts the actual murder of a scantily clad teenage girl. Tom Welles tries to assuage Mrs. Christian of her fears by telling her what she described is called a snuff film and it is purely an urban legend. Mrs. Christian asks Tom to view the film, and he agrees to do so. Watching the trailer to 8MM, I was intrigued by Tom's reaction to watching the snuff film. The way his eyes registered absolute shock and revulsion at the onscreen atrocity playing before his eyes. My mind asked what could a grown man watch that could cause him such discomfort? In this world of Ogrish and other real gore websites as well as increasingly realistic special effects what level of pure horror could a "white heat" film achieve? Pornography is becoming increasingly harder at its extreme edges, so a film simply portraying a bash and slash does not seem to be brutal enough even though it is real. We need degradation/sadism/dismemberment with a dash of necrophilia tossed in for some kind of jolt to the jaded masses. So, what did the snuff film at the center of "8MM" show?

A black leather mask wearing psycho menacing a young girl in lingerie with a knife. The animal slaps the girl, and the slap is clearly fake even by WWF standards. The libertine pulls the girl's head back as he raises the blade above her and plunges it into her chest ripping and tearing her to shreds. The film is so short it is hard to believe Mr. Christian merely wanted to see a young girl die. Seems like an awful waste of money to me. In Andrew Kevin Walker's script he was clear in stating the film should NEVER be seen by the audience. At first, I disagreed with this cinematic "Let them use their imagination" cliché. However, upon reflection I whole heartily agree we should never have been able to watch the film. Why? Because a snuff film by definition is real. Of course, a real snuff film is illegal so that is out of the question. Option two leaves us with the most horrific death ever put on celluloid. The "Ultimate Atrocity" is the way I would go for this spectacularly sadistic scene, but you know since it's a Hollywood film it would never happen. [Incidentally, if you really want to know what the "Ultimate Atrocity" is I will describe it at the end of this review.] Option three suggests the snuff film is not portrayed at all with the audience using its imagination while watching Tom Welles reacting to it. When I watched the snuff scene I could not achieve the level of outrage and disgust reached by Tom Welles because the film was inherently fake. The whole film is predicated on this emotion, and without empathy for Welles's plight I simply questioned his increasing involvement with the case as the danger grew exponentially.

The most compelling scenes in "8MM" involve Amy Morton as Janet Matthews, mother of the slain snuff victim Mary Ann Matthews. Amy Morton creates a heartbreaking performance layered with pain, sorrow, grief, and regret. In Janet Matthews' eyes, I saw the pain caused by having a child disappear. The question of knowing the worst versus not knowing the best comes up, and it is an incredibly complex question posed by Tom Welles to Janet Matthews. Her need to know seems to supersede the unknown happiness her daughter might be experiencing, but she knows in her heart this is not so. When Tom reveals the fate of her daughter later on in the film, Amy Morton's Janet lets out a sobbing declaration of her love for her daughter that is so real it tore my heart out.

"8MM" is not all tears and sorrow, though. I mean a movie about snuff films has to have some light hearted moments too wouldn't you think? This is where Max California comes in wryly played by Joaquin Phoenix. Sarcasm aside, "8MM" should have been a downward spiral into fetishistic nihilism along the lines of screen writer Andrew Kevin Walker's previous film "Seven." However, Joel Shumacher tried to lighten the heavy handedness of Walker's script by adding touches of humor to the dialogue. Case in point, when Max takes Welles to an illegal porn flea market where a guard stationed at the basement door asks Max, "Are you a law enforcement agent or in any way affiliated with law enforcement?" Max responds, "Fuck off, Larry." Larry unperturbed proceeds to ask Welles the same question. Instead of a simple, "No." which would indicate the seriousness of the situation Joel Schumacher goes for the easy laugh by having Tom echo Max's response.

There are other memorable characters that populate "8MM" besides Max California. Stick, whose name accurately describes his physical being, enjoys jacking up his faux snuff film price simply to piss his customer Welles off all the while twisting his own nipple with glee. Eddie Poole is one of the sleaziest characters I have seen onscreen in a long time. James Gandolfini's performance oozes with slime and grease. His best line is, "She was just a fucking piece of pussy. She was nothing. Girl like that disappears no one gives a shit except you." When Tom has a gun in Eddie's mouth Gandolfini chews the scene by tonguing the gun daring Tom to "Pull the fucking trigger, you faggot!" Our next player is snuff auteur Dino Velvet. Peter Stormare is the Devil incarnate as Dino Velvet, a porn director that shoots only on film and also a mean crossbow. His office looks like a Goth dungeon with nude plastic dolls adorning the black walls as his porno-artsy film is playing on a monitor. The star of his films is a man known only as Machine. Machine loves his work, especially when he killed little Mary Ann Matthews. Just describing her murder to Tom Welles in the climax gets him hard as granite.

"8MM" should have been a gritty look at the illegal porn underground and an exploration of the ogre known as the snuff film. "8MM" should be beyond Hollywood crowd pleasing because the subject itself is repellent. On top of this, snuff films even as of this moment do not exist, so the subject should have been treated as a horror of sorts rather than the sappy way it is treated in "8MM". David Fincher understood "Seven," while Joel Schumacher wanted to create a morality tale about the evils of pornography. "Take care of your daughters folks or they might be lured away by evil pornographers who will make them the stars of snuff films!" seems to be this film's message. The ending punctuates this sentiment with its hokey letter telling Tom everything he did was OK, and that Janet's life can now continue on its yellow brick road to new happiness and fulfillment. "This is all wrong," as Dino Velvet says during his demise. 8MM should be a depressing journey into the darkness of humanity where no soul can ever escape. Instead, 8MM is a half measure with some parts being dark while others remind the audience it is still a Hollywood vision of Hell.

Now, you want to know what the "Ultimate Atrocity" is? OK, here it is so brace yourself...

A nun is kidnapped, tortured, and raped until she becomes pregnant and then held for nine months. The nun is strapped into a gynocological chair and has a speculum inserted into her anus spreading as wide as it can go. The child is visciously torn out of the nun's womb via a nasty C-section. The screaming newborn is impaled onto the sadist erect prick anally and then rammed into the nun's dilated anus. Her screams echo throughout the chamber, and she let's out a torrent of fecal matter all over her newborn cum living flesh anal dildo. The sadist pulls the baby dildo out of her anus and rubs its head all over her lips and face. Feces and blood cause the nun to vomit and the process continues some more. Finally, the sadist pulls out a knife and severs the baby's head as he climaxes into its little body with a fountain of blood spurting onto the now dead nude nun's body. This is "The Ultimate Atrocity".  As STICK would say, "sickest shit you will ever see."

THE DVD

VIDEO:
2.35:1
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AUDIO:
Dolby Digital 2.0, Dolby Digital 5.1
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SUPPLEMENTAL MATERIAL:
- Commentary Track
- Making-of Featurette
- Trailer

The DVD extras include a commentary track by Joel Schumacher which did not delve as deep into the snuff film myth as I would have liked. Other than this it was an OK overview of the production. Included also in the extras is a making of featurette which looks like it came straight from the HBO "Making of 8MM" featurette. We also get the film's trailer which I absolutely LOVE.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 

Comments
Add New Search
BABAR MALLICK  - ULTIMATE ATROCITY     |24.46.14.xxx |2010-09-21 23:50:11
WHICH FILM IS THE ULTIMATE ATROCITY FROM? IS THE ULTIMATE ATROCITY FROM A
UNDERGROUND HORROR FILM OR SOMETHING? OR IS THE ULTIMATE ATROCITY FROM A
EXPLOITATION FILM PERHAPS? IF ANYBODY KNOWS WHICH SPECIFIC FILM THE ULTIMATE
ATROCITY IS FROM THEN PLEASE LET ME KNOW IN A E-MAIL RESPONSE BECAUSE I WOULD
LIKE TO KNOW WHICH FILM THE ULTIMATE ATROCITY IS FROM.
BABAR MALLICK  - ULTIMATE ATROCITY     |24.46.14.xxx |2011-02-11 23:10:34
WHICH FILM IS THE ULTIMATE ATROCITY FROM. A UNDERGROUND HORROR FILM OR
SOMETHING? OR IS THE ULTIMATE ATROCITY FROM A EXPLOITATION FILM PERHAPS? IF
ANBODY KNOWS WHICH SPECIFIC FILM THE ULTIMATE ATROCITY IS FROM THEN PLEASE LET
ME KNOW IN AN E-MAIL RESPONSE BECAUSE I WOULD LIKE TO KNOW WHICH FILM THE
ULTIMATE ATROCITY IS FROM.
Chris Mayo  - RE: ULTIMATE ATROCITY     |SAdministrator |2011-03-23 18:49:58
"The Ultimate Atrocity" is a dreamt up piece of fiction by the reviewer.
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3.22 Copyright (C) 2007 Alain Georgette / Copyright (C) 2006 Frantisek Hliva. All rights reserved."

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