Jennifer 8 - Blu-ray Review

Michael Scott

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Jennifer 8


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Movie: :2.5stars:
Video: :4.5stars:
Audio: :4stars:
Extras: :3stars:
Final Score: :3.5stars:




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Movie

The late 80s and 90s was an amazing time for low key cop thrillers. Morgan Freeman blew up the place with Kiss the Girls and Along Came a Spider, Brad Pitt and Bruce Willis were both all over the place with Seven and Striking Distance. But I can almost guarantee that most of you have either never seen, or have completely forgotten about 92’s Jennifer 8. The film was filled with a star studded cast, including a breakout role from Uma Thurman (My jaw almost hit the floor rewatching this realizing she was a baby faced 22 year old), but it suffered from production issues, where Paramount wasn’t wild about the final cut, and deleted a lot of John Malkovich’s scenes, and writer/director Bruce Robinson completely cut the original score out in favor of Christopher Young’s score to match the new tone of the chopped down film. Sadly the film was not a major hit in theaters, and the flick has had minimal home video releases over the years with I think the only Blu-ray release before this being Warner’s 2013 bare bones disc. As such, it has sort of been that film that film lovers love to reference for it’s misty “by the bay” noir aesthetic, but most people just pass over and move on to the really popular 90s hits.

Andy Garcia plays Sgt. John Berlin, a forensics expert from the LAPD who has spiraled into a bit of a burnout after his wife left him some years ago and was laughed out of his department after running into a dead end with a supposed serial killer who kidnapped blind women. His buddy (and former mentor) Freddy Ross (Lance Henriksen) invites John out to cosy small town Eureka to help get the struggling officer on his feet again. While there John and Freddy run into a dead body hidden in a dumpster that seems to possibly match the MO of the serial killer that got John laughed out of the LAPD. Digging deeper and deeper the burnt out cop puts the clues together and realized that the serial killer just MIGHT be here, and his target seems to be a blind girl named Helena (a baby faced Uma Thurman) who seems to fit the pattern of the killer.

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In a swirl of 1990s hazy erotic goop, Sgt. Berlin begins to shadow Helena and see if he can draw the killer out, but soon the begin to fall for each other. But in typical 1990s fashion, things go horribly wrong when a late night stakeout craps the bed, leaving Freddy murdered and the entire police force (including the FBI investigator assigned to the case, played by John Malkovich hamming it up) believes that John is the actual murder. Now it’s up to John and Helena to figure out WHO the actual killer is, and see if they can catch him and prove John’s innocence before he’s put away for a crime he didn’t commit.

I’m genuinely torn about Jennifer 8 and have been ever since I saw the VHS back in 97 or 98 (at least that’s about when I vaguely remember seeing the 4x3 tape for the first time). Bruce Robinson’s script is lumbering and unwieldy, and it’s pretty obvious from the get go that he doesn’t have a good handle on making a thriller. Paramount themselves weren’t wild about the film either, forcing tons of cuts and edits to Robinson’s original cut, and what we have here is a film that makes sense MOST of the time, but leaves out so much information that entire scenes just trail off into nothingness (such as the peeping tom where we find out WHO he was, but it goes nowhere). Malkovich was supposed to take a much bigger role in the film, but after the cuts he’s only in there grilling John for maybe 10 minutes total. Also, the ending for the film is one of the most anti-climactic endings for a thriller that I’ve ever seen. It just comes out of nowhere and suddenly everyone’s happy in a field living their ever after. Honesty, it’s not hard to see that this was a labor of frustration, with too many cooks in the kitchen and the original cook not being up to the task to finish it. Yeah, it’s not as bad as F4ntastic was with Miles Teller in that regards, but it’s pretty obvious that there was not a lot that the studio heads could do with Robinson’s film.




Rating:

Rated R for violence and terror, and for language and brief nudity




Video: :4.5stars:
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While the film itself is a bit disjointed, the new 4K scan from Shout looks REALLY nice on Blu-ray (my gut reaction is we’ll see a Shout 4K disc down the line, but who knows). The filming was done by the legend hims Conrad Hall, and edited Conrad Buff (Terminator 2, True Lies, Titanic) and the film’s aesthetic and visual look almost makes the jumbled script worth it. There’s a weird sort of coastal misty noir to the vibe, with dark interior shots and hazy outdoor shots that covered in snow or misty rain. There’s a heavy parchment yellowed tinge to the entire film, adding to the gauzy and mysteriously hazy tone that Hall allows to permeate the entire film. There are shots that are distinctly brighter and cleaner (such as the last shot in the field, or Helena giving her statement at the PD), but the film dips heavily into that dark and grainy look that 90s flicks were known for. Fine details are still appreciable, with warm colors and strong facial details (such as when Helena is putting on lipstick for the first time, you can see the actual brush strokes from where it’s applied). Black levels are probably the only thing that really “suffers”, so to speak, as that misty, hazy aesthetic sometimes blurs out some shadows. The extended cut scenes are in really really worn out shape and seem to be inserted as they were, so if you’re watching the extended cut, you’ll notice those insertions instantly.









Audio: :4stars:
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I can’t be 100% certain as I don’t have the 2013 Warner Blu-ray, but this is most likely a direct port of the 2013 disc as that has been the history of Shout Studio’s non Atmos upgraded tracks. The original film was filmed in Dolby Stereo Surround back in the day, but remixed into 5.1 for the DVD release back in 2000, which serves as the base for this DTS-HD MA track (the 2.0 stereo track is the only track for the extended cut, while the theatrical cut only has the 5.1 mix). It’s a solid remix, with a nice atmospheric sense of enveloping ambiance to it with Young’s scoring. The track can be a bit softer and more languid than I remembered, but that is mainly due to the fact that everyone speaks in whispers and soft undertones except for a few short action sequences. The majority of the surround activity is environmental, with sounds of rain, wind or snowstorms kicking up the side channels (outside of the score that is). There’s a few bass pops here and there, but the film has never been a low end power house, so that’s not exactly surprising.












Extras: :3stars:
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• NEW 4K RESTORATION FROM THE ORIGINAL CAMERA NEGATIVE (2023)
• NEW Two Cuts Of The Film, Including A Never-Before-Seen Alternate Ending
• NEW "Is It Dark Yet?" Looking Back At Jennifer 8 – A Retrospective With Brand-New Interviews With Writer/Director Bruce Robinson And Stars Andy Garcia And Lance Henriksen
• NEW Deleted Alternate Ending
• Original Theatrical Traile












Final Score: :3.5stars:

The Shout Studios disc is a nice upgrade over the 2013 Blu-ray, giving us a goodly dose of new extras, a brand new cut of the film, and a slight boost in visual detail with the 4K scan that Shout has underwent. The extended cut is not a massive difference to the theatrical cut for those wondering. The source material was in pretty “meh” shape for the 5 minutes of inserted footage (most of which was simply the new extended ending...which isn’t any better than the original really. More like it was “different”). The ending itself is where it’s at, and said ending is kind of tangential to the original theatrical ending. It fleshes out a few extra moments and pulls a nice twist, but it also feels like it’s bloated and redundant too. So, while it’s nice to see the footage for the first time, it’s also not exactly like Robinson went back and re-cut the film and made it better. All in all, I like Jennifer 8 for what it is, but it will always be that niche 90s thriller that “could have been”. An amazing cast, a good idea, but really really weird execution. The Blu-ray is a nice addition to Shout Studios Warner collection, and well worth picking up if you’re a fan of the film.


Technical Specifications:

Starring: Andy Garcia, Uma Thurman, John Malkovich, Lance Henricksen, Kevin Conway, Kathy Baker
Directed by: Bruce Robinson
Written by: Bruce Robinson
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1, English DTS-HD MA 2.0 (extended cut)
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
Studio: Shout Studios
Rated: R
Runtime: 124 minutes / 129 minutes (extended ctu)
Blu-Ray Release Date: January 23rd, 2024
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Recommendation: For the Fans

 

Asere

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Nostalgic. I remember seeing this in my prime.
 

Todd Anderson

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Why don't I remember this being released back in 92?

Can't say I'm all that motivated to try and watch it... Mike, your review dangles a bit of intrigue. But, I think I'm better off rolling the time dice with another film
 
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