At the start of the month, I said that the purpose of this challenge was to catch up on films I’d missed, ignored, or never even heard of. To those categories, I can now add: films that I never want to see again. I’m not complaining, mind; it’s a useful exercise in broadening the scope and weighing up my own tastes. I would just rather have seen Super-8 instead. (The director of which, incidentally, had a bit-part role in Six Degrees of Separation.)
8MM is an unpleasant little film that starts promisingly enough, with Private Investigator Nicholas Cage called in to consult a wealthy widow. Her late husband appears to have a snuff film amongst the contents of his safe, and his widow tasks Cage to find out if the tape is real. With little to go on, he delves into the seedy world of LA porn to find the perpetrators and discover the truth behind the video.
Frustratingly, there are some good points to the film, mostly involving Joaquin Phoenix as the caustic, but ultimately naive young musician who introduces Cage to the scene and gets dragged in over his head. The relationship between the two is affecting, amusing, and belongs in a better film. The characters they encounter, however, are cardboard villains with fewer dimensions than leftover Christmas wrapping paper. A slimy porn boss, a sleazy lawyer, an oafish enforcer and a man in a mask who lives with his mum – a motley bunch with few distinguishing features aside from a cackling desire to do evil. At times, you can tell this had the same director as Batman & Robin. It really is that bad.
Cage’s journey from polite, softly-spoken PI to avenging angel, bloodied by the remains of his victims, is not wholly believable. And the final revelation that the monstrous “machine” is just a podgy, bespectacled bloke who loves his mum is trite and uninvolving. There’s no room for nuance here, just a bland attempt to manipulate a sense of shock that evil can have a human face. Well, duh.