Quentin Tarantino is arguably the hero of the quintessential “Cult Classic”. And his newest creation “The Hateful Eight” fits very snugly into that genre, but can it re-kindle the fanfare and love that his early work generated?
Set some time after the American Civil War, a Hangman (Kurt Russell) is escorting a criminal to the town of Red Rock to meet her fate. (Jennifer Jason Leigh) Along the way however, two unexpected events transpire – an incoming blizzard catches up with them and they must fund refuge in a cabin, and they take on two wanderers lost in the snow drifts. The cabin is not empty however, and the small room is quickly occupied by eight people who do not trust each other, and also have untold stories of their own. They must survive two days until the blizzard passes by, but who will remain of them by then is the big question.
If you get the vibe that this could almost be a stage play, then you have a fairly good idea of how this is set up. Despite a few outdoor locations, the majority of the 160-minute running time takes place within the confines of the cabin. There’s a real sense of claustrophobia as all these mysterious people are forced to hang around each other even when there are clear divisions forging in their beliefs and mentalities. It makes for a self-generating atmosphere that continuously build through each Chapter.
Being a homage to the classic Westerns of old, it has the advantage of some amazing HD footage of the landscape captured on a very wide lens. (an Ultra Panavision 70mm no less) The opening sequences and shots are mind-blowing in scope and range, the camera techniques may be simple but they perfectly capture the bleak, vastness of the Frontier. It’s nice too to hear a modern movie actually have a recognisable score rather than just a combination of notes stumbled together. When you hear it playing again in the latter stages of the film, you immediately know some bad shit is going to go down.
But interestingly, the Tarantino blood-bath we all know so well doesn’t happen for a long time. Instead you get his trademark script work and dialogue which keeps everything moving along at a very nice pace. The characters are introduced at just the right moment in order to make their entrances notable, and spread out enough so you’re not over-whelmed. The opening act focuses on the interactions between Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Samuel L. Jackson, and Walton Goggins. I mean hell, what a cast just there alone! The mundane is made so much more interesting by that script, and how effortlessly they immerse themselves into their respective characters and personalities. The tone is very tense and aggressive, but the film gives plenty reason for their actions. Don’t get me wrong, they’re horrible people at heart, but you can understand why they are horrible – the land they are in demands it.
The second act is where everything boils down to the cabin, and we start to see how all the characters interact with each other – who they form alliances with, who they mistrust, and you place your bets on who will make it out alive. It is like Hitchcock is behind the camera, fixated on a devilish plan for the story and disregarding all the yells of surprise the studio is making. This is a slow burner, but one where you will savour every segment of discussion, every nod the camera makes to an item or area of significance. One or two of these nods are way too obvious and make me feel like Tarantino was joking with cliche telltale stereotypes, but most films stitch these into all their productions in some form or manner.
Going into the final act would be to enter a minefireld of spoilers, but rest assured the gore level is set to ELEVEN-AND-A-HALF for the rest of the running time. It is bloody, over the top, extreme, and so utterly wonderful.
As I said, the cast is stunning in here, bringing together some amazing talent and somehow getting it all to work at the same time. There’s some fascinating variety in the delivery of the performances, and yet there’s no fancy tricks behind it either. The cinematography made me furious I didn’t get time to see this on the big screen, where it was certainly designed to reside. That super-wide lens brings scale to everything in the landscape, and yet also manages to root out any hiding spots in the small interior of the cabin. All the characters are within just a small turn of the camera, working to further emphasise the claustrophobic sense. The use of modern music styles is subtle enough to not ruin the flow of the story, and Samuel L. Jackson is on fire. Damm, is he amazing in here.
In fact, the quibbles I have are very small and don’t add up to an awful lot. The movie just does what it set out to achieve extremely well. You get all the elements you’d expect from a piece of work by Quentin, along with a combination of some of the most beautiful, and violent, images he has captured to date.
“The Hateful Eight” is simply wonderful, the kind of film I can’t wait to see again with the knowledge of the first viewing behind it. Film buffs, cult fans, and filmmakers alike will love the shit out of this, and that 160 minutes will simply melt away. This is going on my Favourites List for 2016 for certain.
And I had to include that sick Mondo poster in the review, how could anyone complain?
Thanks for reading!