I've got this thing about snuff. Wow, that came out all wrong.
I'm a little fascinated by the idea of snuff, it's so disturbing and depraved. I truly believe it isn't real--no one could possibly be that fucked up. I like to think that's why snuff crops up in horror every now and again. It's just too awful to not provide great inspiration for a horror movie.
Not that 8mm is a horror movie, per se. It's a thriller. With gore effects.
Nicholas Cage hams it up as Tom Welles, a surveillance expert, hired to track down the provenience of a snuff film. His client, who found the film among her late husband's effects, is concerned about the fate of the girl in the movie, and Nick Cage takes this to heart. Slowly, he tracks the girl's movements, growing apart from his family and delving deep into underground porn. He's aided in and warned off his quest by Max California, a would-be musician who's become too wrapped up in the porn racket. Nick Cage stubbornly pursues the mystery of the filmstrip but he finds out, much too late, that he's wholly unprepared to face the truth when it comes out, nor is he equipped to deal with the repercussions.
When I sat down to watch this movie, I was operating under the assumption that it had received mixed reviews. I can't point you in the direction of those reviews, I don't know where I heard them. But, for some reason, I am sure it was met with a hearty "meh" from movie-goers. I, too, am on the fence. I think it's because the film itself is somewhat wishy-washy. On the topic of snuff, 8mm is very clear in what it has to say, but the movie switches gears partway through as the mystery/thriller gives way to vengeance quest.
Nick Cage undergoes some tremendous character development, and suffers a near-complete breakdown, which is partly responsible for that drastic change in tone I mentioned. In fact, one of the film's greatest moments comes when he is at the end of his rope, begging over the phone for permission to kill. Unfortunately, the movie follows a rather predictable path, especially after the turning point, so any and all character development is largely negated as Tom eventually reverts back to normal.
It's a bit of shame, really, because Max's dire warnings to Tom, about how hard core porn will change him forever, prove to be largely unwarranted. Of course, Max didn't have a family to return to after plumbing the depths of depravity. So I'm not too sure what the message is here. That family matters? That some people are shit? My confusion reflects the confused personality of the film. 8mm could have been an interesting multi-layered, pseudo-postmodern treatise on the nature of cinema and audience effects, but it falls short of being truly meaningful.
I'm still sure snuff doesn't exist, though.