'The Hateful Eight' Review: No One Said This Job was Supposed to be Easy...
I'm a fan of Tarantino movies. I may not like the man, but there's no denying that his films are gruesomely entertaining. Unfortunately, The Hateful Eight takes Tarantino's stylistic self indulgence to a whole new level. It's the worst Tarantino movie I've ever seen, and one of the worst I've watched this year. While Leonard Part 6 was bad because of ineptitude and apathy, The Hateful Eight is bad because of conscious decisions Tarantino made in an attempt to be clever.
Supposedly Tarantino heavily based his compositions on The Thing, but if you're going to make a movie based off of a horror movie in which the audience never knows who has been taken over by the monster until they're eating cast members, a little subtlety wouldn't hurt.
The plot of The Hateful Eight follows bounty hunter, John Ruth as he leads his captive, Daisy Domergue, to her hanging. Along the way he picks up bounty hunter Major Warren and sheriff to be Chris Mannix. Unfortunately, a blizzard forces them to stop over at a roadhouse till the storm passes, and the paranoid Ruth suspects one of the guests at the roadhouse of being in cahoots with Domergue. That's the entire plot. The film's final run time is two hours and forty minutes.
Ruth is played by Kurt Russel, Domergue by Jennifer Jason Leigh, Warren by Samuel L. Jackson, and Mannix by Walton Goggins. The guests and roadhouse employee are played by Tim Roth, Channing Tatum, Bruce Dern, Michael Madsen, and Demian Bichir. None of them provide particularly stirring performances, but that's par for the course with Tarantino's straight forward and often flat characters. Another Tarantino staple is the use of the N-word, so constant and repetitive that it simply gets annoying instead of "shocking to the audience's delicate sensibilities".
The issues with the movie are nearly all stylistic. For one thing, the sound design is terrible. Tarantino and Ennio Morricone worked together on the soundtrack. The only explanation I can think of for why that would make terrible audio composition is that the two iconic sounds styles altered themselves in an attempt to mesh together, making everything sound wrong. It also doesn't help that the music doesn't seem to have been paced correctly to the actions happening on screen.
During one particular monologue a character plays silent night slowly on the piano. The audience waits, assuming that the end of the tune will occur at the same time as the thrilling conclusion to a tense bit of dialogue. Unfortunately the song ends and the character keeps talking, eventually getting backed by an entirely different, non-diagetic accompaniment. That isn't the only time that the sound track cuts out and jumps to a different tone mid scene. Another issue with the sound design is the voice over narration. It isn't present for the whole movie, which makes it dramatically worse.
Once every hour Tarantino's voice comes in over the goings on and flatly states what's occurring. The first one jumps fifteen minutes forward, then says "let's go back fifteen minutes" and jumps back to what the film had just shown before. It's almost as though the man felt the need to include his voice in the feature to make up for his lack of cameo appearance. The narration also includes a moment in which you can almost hear Tarantino gloat about how gruesome his own writing is.
There's lots of canted angles at points where there's not anything wrong other than the straightforward and obvious "good" vs bad scenario. Tarantino splits the film in to chapters with inter-title cards, each card followed up by a new series of setting establishment shots, often long shots of carriages driving through the snowy landscape. There are multiple scenes that take far to long and serve no purpose. A shot of Domergue lingers for three times as long as is necessary and serves little purpose. An outhouse is featured prominently in multiple shots but ends up hardly being used in the feature. There is a scene in which two characters nail a tether line from one building to the other, a clear reference to The Thing, but the tether line is never used for again. Lingering shots that you know are going to end with a character's head exploding last a beat or two longer than necessary, presumably just to throw off the audience's sense of balance and standard story telling pacing.
My final issue is with the meaning of the content in general. There's no real statement to the film. There's a commentary on justice, but by the end of the film the characters have ignored it, and the source is less then reliable, so there's a question of whether or not Tarantino meant for it to be a lie or meant for us to simply ignore the character's personality when listening to the dialogue. If we make a stretch, there's possibly a commentary about race, but only if we assume that Tarantino consciously felt the urge to SAY something, rather then the more likely assumption that he just wanted to be as shocking as possible.
A flashback shows the chipper and sickeningly happy natives of the area in sharp contrast to the gloomy residents of the modern times, but with both groups being one dimensional archetypes of either happy and nice or angry and mean, the side by side comparison is so aggressive that it's almost painful. Two characters die by projectile vomiting their own blood on to the floor and other characters for a full two minutes, which, while holding the signature gore of Tarantino, has the subtlety and nuance of a Bruce Campbell "B" horror flick. The feature has a few interesting bits of dialogue and the sets are as colorful as those of all modern Tarantino movies.
All in all, despite a few minor positive points and having been made by a man well known for making violently entertaining pulp features, The Hateful Eight suffers from Tarantino trying to do to many things and underestimating his audience. It is not good, and with a two hour and forty minute run time and total lack of suspense, it manages to be a disappointingly bad homage flick with nothing to say for itself.
Final Say: Skip It and go see The Revenant instead