The Hateful Eight (2015)
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Cast: Kurt Russell, Samuel L. Jackson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Walton Goggins, Demian Bichir, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Bruce Derns, James Parks, Zoe Bell,
Right after I finished watching The Hateful Eight, I immediately tried pinpointing the films that influenced Tarantino while writing this one. I mean, most of his films are a smorgasbord of other films put together and blended into Tarantino’s own brand of storytelling. So anyhow, I swear to god, the two films I mentioned to my friend were John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982) and Tarantino’s own Reservoir Dogs (1992). I couldn’t see other influences other than those two. I mean, in general, sure The Hateful Eight is influenced by Sergio Leone’s westerns and also The Magnificent Seven (1960), but the two films that came to mind the most were The Thing and Reservoir Dogs. I haven’t seen enough Western’s to know exactly all of the films he was influenced by, but I’m sure there are a zillion of them. Funny how normally Tarantino borrows from other filmmakers to make up a new film, yet this time, he’s feeding on himself for inspiration! He’s turned into an Ouroboros, eating his own tail! But more on that later.
While researching The Hateful Eight for this review I discovered that Tarantino himself quoted The Thing and Reservoir Dogs as his main source of inspiration. I think it’s so eclectic and fantastic, that Tarantino is inspired by a science fiction horror film to make his new Western! In fact, John Carpenter’s The Thing was the only film that Tarantino showed the cast and crew to give them an idea of the kind of isolation that he wanted to capture with The Hateful Eight. Tarantino loves The Thing so much that he cast Kurt Russell and had the musical score composed by Ennio Morricone! I love the fact that Tarantino recognizes the awesomeness of Carpenter’s The Thing; it’s always been a favorite of mine. What Tarantino distilled from that picture was that dreadful feeling that you're in the middle of nowhere and no one can save you. You can literally cut the tension in The Thing with a knife. I have to say Tarantino nailed it. During The Hateful Eight, you truly feel like you are in the middle of nowhere with these characters. Shooting the film in the middle of these lonely mountains, and having the story take place in the middle of a raging blizzard was a brilliant idea! It’s a successful setting for the sort of tension filled story Tarantino wanted to tell with this film.
The Hateful Eight is all about this bounty hunter called John Ruth. He is on his way to a town called Red Wood, accompanied by his prisoner, an evil lady named Daisy Domergue. He’s taking her to town to collect his money and to see her hang. Unfortunately, on his way there, a raging blizzard makes him take refuge in a cottage called ‘Minnies Haberdashery’, a place where you could come in, warm yourself, get a drink and a bite to eat. When he gets there, the place is populated by a group of individuals apparently seeking refuge from the storm as well. Who wants to kill who and why? Will they all survive the blizzard?
Tarantino’s idea for this film was locking up a bunch of mean bastards in a cabin in the middle of a raging blizzard to see what sort of situation develops. This being a Tarantino film, you can bet your ass, whatever is going to happen is going to be some fucked up crazy ass shit. First things first my friends, when you go watch The Hateful Eight you have to be ready for a film that takes its time in setting up characters and situations, this film is in no hurry to end. But trust me, you can be assured all the set up will pay off by the time the film ends. You know how film critics are always bitching and moaning that there’s not enough character development in films today? Well, you don’t have to complain about that here because there’s plenty of it. In fact, every single character has a back story, and every single one gets their chance to tell it, with all the detail and set up in the world. So be ready for that. But trust me, once things get rolling, well there’s no stopping this gravy train. Things get bloody and nasty, quick! In fact, I know Kill Bill (2003) was practically filmed in blood, but damn, The Hateful Eight has to be one of Tarantino’s bloodiest affairs! It certainly is extremely graphic. Kudos to the guys at KNB Effects group for supplying that good old fashion gore! It blew my head clean off!
Tarantino has always made meaningful films with “something to say”, I kept wondering what The Hateful Eight was going to be really about. You know, in the midst of all the blood and guts, was it all going to be worth it in the end? Or was The Hateful Eight just going to be a lot of senseless violence for violence sake? Of course it was all going to mean something! Tarantino isn’t about making empty movies, I don’t think he’s ever been about that. When I go and watch a Tarantino movie I always expect them to be about meaningful subject matter or at the very least fun and entertaining. I mean, even Death Proof (2007), which seems like simple, yet fun homage to car movies from the 70’s said something about female empowerment. His earlier films had more of a fun vibe to them, but from Inglorious Bastards (2009) onward, his films have taken on an even more meaningful tone. On The Hateful Eight, Tarantino revisits his favorite theme, the theme that has reigned supreme throughout his entire career; that old demon humanity can’t seem to exorcise just yet: racism. I have to say that he does so in an indirect manner, it’s subtle. You’ll almost come away from the film thinking it was simply ‘a fucked up tale’, but it’s only after the film mulls inside your skull for a couple of days that you realize that racism is at the very core of the film! While many object to Tarantino’s repeated use of the word ‘nigger’, I think its honest filmmaking. What’s the problem with showing things they way they were? In fact, if it bothers you every time you hear the word or every time they treat a black person unjustly in his films, then I think Tarantino is doing his job right. It shocks you because it’s wrong, but it also shocks because there’s no denying these things happened and continue to happen in our world. So put that in your pipe and smoke it next time you want to criticize Tarantino for using the word nigger.
Technically speaking, this film is beautiful. It gets extra points for going the old fashion way of shooting on location! In fact, it gets bonus points for doing everything old fashion, like using actual film and shooting on 70 millimeter. Hell, it gets extra points for telling an intriguing yarn, filled with characters that seem alive, intense and raw. The drama is there, so much so that the film, much like Tarantino’s own Reservoir Dogs (1992), feels like a theater play. Most of the film takes place in one location, just like Reservoir Dogs, and both are about questioning loyalty and spilling your guts…both literally and metaphorically. This is not to say that The Hateful Eight is a carbon copy of Reservoir Dogs, but the similarities are there. But with the old, there’s something new and the new comes in the form of new actors appearing for their first time in a Tarantino film, for example, Jennifer Jason Leigh who just chews the film up. I loved her intensity, her craziness and her willingness to just go nuts with her character. She really chews up the screen, same as everyone involved. And wow, you'll love Walton Goggins after this movie. Kurt Russell works like magic here, he aint the good guy, in fact, nobody here is the good guy. Everybody is freaking despicable, hence the title.
Final words on the whole thing is that this is very much a Tarantino film, you’ll hear that dialog and you know it’s a Tarantino film, you’ll hear his voice both through his dialog and literally, because at one point Tarantion actually becomes the narrator of the film! Ha! Brilliant! I loved that! I love it when Tarantino breaks the rules! He’s like “I’m telling this story!” I’m glad that Samuel L. Jackson convinced Tarantino to make this film even though the script leaked before the film was made. You see, once upon a time Tarantino was furious that his script was out there for all to see before he had even shot the thing, so he swore he wouldn’t shoot the film. But his cast convinced him otherwise and voila! We got another masterpiece from good old QT. The thing about Tarantino is that he wants you to remember that cinema is a place to hear stories, to talk about ourselves, to get lost in the reflections of humanity. There’s no rush here. You came to the cinema? You dragged your ass out to the movies? Then here’s a film to make it worth your while. I will always love Tarantino for making films that you don’t immediately forget the minute you walk out of the theater, please, Mr. Tarantino, keep it going kind sir! Keep reminding us why films matter!
Rating: 5 out of 5