Claustrophobic Paranoia the Tarantino Way
Chris Kavan - wrote on 03/26/16
I read that one of the major influences for Tarantino for The Hateful Eight was John Carpenter's claustrophobic, paranoid horror classic, The Thing. It makes a lot of sense in that if you turned that film into a western and got rid of the alien (but kept all the mistrust and paranoia) you would wind up with this film. You even get Kurt Russell to star and Ennio Morricone (who worked on The Thing) to score the film. It all works out in the end and I am happy that a little breach didn't shelve this movie for good.
Tarantino presents The Hateful Eight as a kind of stage play - it all takes place (for the most part) in one location among a small group of actors. I would have killed to be able to see the road show version, but, alas, it didn't play near me to indulge in such spectacle. A movie is only as good as the characters, and in that, The Hateful Eight excels. Jennifer Jason Leigh is the standout as the lone, main female character, the wanted-dead-or-alive murderer Daisy Domergue. She's rude, crude and knows how to take a beating and keep on keeping on. And she plays a mean guitar. Kurt Russell plays John Ruth, the bounty hunter taking her in - and has no qualms about hitting a woman to keep her in line. The sort-of forgotten ninth member of the Hateful Eight is his horse team driver O.B. (James Parks), who definitely keeps getting the short end of the stick. Samuel L. Jackson is another bounty hunter, Major Marquis Warren, a Civil War veteran who prefers to shoot first and ask questions later and is as cold and he is cool. All are headed toward Red Rocks, Wyoming, but are beset by a major snow storm.
After picking up the major, the group runs across Chris Mannix, son of a known rebel who claims he is the new sheriff of Red Rocks. Despite their trepidation (and he known hatred of the black race), they pick him up. They all wind up at Minnie's Haberdashery - where the bulk of the film plays out. Minnie is gone, but Bob the Mexican (Demián Bichir) says he has been left in charge while the guests included the enigmatic Joe Gage (Michael Madsen), an old Confederate general Sandy Smithers (Bruce Dern), and an English hangman Oswaldo Mobray (Tim Roth). Ruth immediately suspects that at least one of the men is likely here to spring Daisy and thus the paranoia sets in.
The film does an excellent job of pitting characters against one another and seeing how things play out. Of course, there are several connections between them - General Smithers was responsible for atrocities that Major Warren was party to while Mobray is the hangman going to Red Rocks for the execution of Daisy. Like any good Tarantino movie, there will be blood - and thanks to the work from Greg Nicotero (also the man behind much of the effects on The Walking Dead) it looks amazing. The characters have no problem speaking their minds - especially the N-word (over and over again), so try not to be too offended.
Morricone rightfully one the Academy Award for his score. Even though I will always be a John Williams fan for life, the music was absolutely brilliant here. The movie also looked fantastic. Bravo to the set director for crafting such a perfect set and the prop masters for making it look authentic. But boo to the prop master for having Russell destroy a priceless guitar - I saw that bit of trivia and was shocked an appalled - but I guess the authentic reaction form Jason Leigh was almost worth it.
The Hateful Eight is divided into chapters. Now, the set up does take some time to go along, and Tarantino is known for his love of dialogue and it's the same here. Even though I don't have much trouble, the movie can tend to drag in places, especially the beginning. Out of all his films, this one may also be the most depressing in terms of how it all plays out (but if you've seen The Thing, you know how that one ended up as well).
While The Hateful Eight may not be Tarantino's best, it is still among the better films of 2015 and overall a fantastic character-driven story.