8mm (film)  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

8mm is a 1999 crime mystery film directed by Joel Schumacher and written by Andrew Kevin Walker. The film stars Nicolas Cage as a private investigator who delves into the world of snuff films. Joaquin Phoenix, James Gandolfini, Peter Stormare, and Anthony Heald appear in supporting roles.


Private investigator Tom Welles is contacted by Daniel Longdale, attorney for wealthy widow Mrs. Christian, whose husband has recently died. While clearing out her late husband's safe, she and Longdale find an 8mm movie which appears to depict a real murder of a girl, but Mrs. Christian wants to know for certain. Welles is bound by obligation from both Longdale and Mrs. Christian not to reproduce the film in any way, and that only they need to know about the investigation.

After looking through missing persons files, Welles discovers the girl is Mary Ann Mathews and visits her mother, Janet Mathews. While searching the house with her permission, he finds Mary Ann's diary, in which she says she went to Hollywood to become a film star. He asks Mrs. Mathews if she wants to know the truth, even if it is the worst. She says that she wants to know what happened to her daughter.

In Hollywood, with the help of an adult video store employee called Max California, Welles delves into the world of underground (and sometimes illegal) fetish pornography. He attempts to find out if snuff is indeed real, or if there was anyone in this underworld who was connected to this film. Contact with a sleazy talent scout named Eddie Poole leads them to director Dino Velvet, whose violent pornographic films star is a masked man known as "Machine". To gain more evidence, Welles pretends to be a client interested in commissioning a hardcore bondage film to be directed by Velvet and starring Machine. Velvet agrees and arranges a meeting in New York City.

The meeting turns out to be an ambush. Longdale and Poole appear and hold Welles at gunpoint. Longdale tipped off Velvet and Poole that Welles was on to them. It's now clear that the film was real; Mr. Christian contacted Longdale to procure a snuff film, and being unable to find one, he commissioned Velvet and Poole to make one. Velvet and Machine produce a bound and beaten California, whom they abducted to force Welles to bring them the only surviving copy of the illegal film. Longdale and Welles go to Welles' car to retrieve the film, in which Longdale admits that he never thought Welles would get as far as he did, and just wanted to placate Mrs. Christian with the investigation. Once he delivers it, they burn it and kill California. As they are about to kill Welles, he tells them that Mr. Christian paid $1 million for the film. Velvet, Poole, and Machine received $50,000 and Longdale kept the major portion. In an ensuing fight, Velvet and Longdale are both killed; Welles wounds Machine and escapes.

Welles calls Mrs. Christian to tell her his discoveries and recommends going to the police, to which she agrees. Arriving at her estate, Welles is told that Mrs. Christian committed suicide after hearing the news. She left envelopes for the Mathews family and Welles: it contains the rest of his payment and a note reading; "Try to forget us". Welles warns his already frantic wife of the impending danger and to seek shelter in a location known only to them, and hands her his half of the money.

Welles decides to seek justice for the murdered girl by killing the remaining people involved. Tracking down Poole, Welles takes him to the shooting location and tries to kill him. He can't bring himself to do it amid Poole's taunting, and steps out of the house. He calls Mrs. Mathews to tell her about her daughter and asks for her permission to punish those responsible; "Just tell me that you loved her". Mrs. Mathews breaks down in hysterics once presented with the truth, but affirms that she loved her daughter. With that, Welles returns and beats Poole to death with his pistol, burning his body and the pornography from his car. Welles traces Machine and attacks him at his home. Welles unmasks him, revealing a bald, bespectacled man named George. He reveals to Welles that he has no ulterior motive for his sadistic actions; he does them simply because he enjoys it. They struggle, and Welles kills him.

After returning to his family, Welles breaks down in front of his wife as he tries to process all of the evil that he had seen over the course of the investigation. Months later, Welles receives a letter from Mrs. Mathews, thanking him and suggesting he and she were the only ones to care about Mary Ann.


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