The Hateful Eight. A lot of wordplay, gunplay fans be patient (& references galore).

Wyoming, some time after the Civil War. A stagecoach -the ‘Last Stage to Red Rock’ (I guess Crimson Peak and Black Rock were already taken) as the first of 6 chapters reads- with a bountyhunter and his bounty (reluctantly) pick up a couple of stranded, soon to be fellow travelers (another bountyhunter and a ‘Son of a Gun’, the alleged new sheriff of Red Rock, Chapter 2), before a snowstorm locks them in a lodge called ‘Minnie’s Haberdashery’ (Chapter 3) where they find the remaining ‘hateful’ bunch (the local hangman, a cowpuncher, a confederate general and a Mexican help called Bob) the title refers to but not Minnie.

The story centers around the captive Daisy Domergue (an excellent Jennifer Jason Leigh who finally gets another center stage role) who’s to be trialed and hanged in Red Rock, but some are perhaps trying to prevent this from happening.
She’s a tough lady to say the least, who gets handled equally tough by John ‘The Hangman’ Ruth (Kurt Russell reteaming with Tarantino after their highly underrated Grindhouse Deathproof segment). It’s almost like she provokes him to get beaten so she can have another taste of her own blood. Misogyny? I don’t thing so. If you’re offended  by this or the way she addresses the Major Marquis Warren character (Samuel L. Jackson excellent as he is in every Tarantino film that he shows up in) with ‘Howdy nigger’ and don’t see the humor in it, well then this is probably not the movie for you.

Tarantino takes his times to introduce all his characters with groovy backstories and gives his actors the time to shine. He is visibly enjoying his troop of actors doing their (or his) thing. Is he taking too much time? Perhaps (and certainly for some), but can you blame him for having fun? Maybe Tarantino is one of the few directors with the power to have his films play out longer than the average director is allowed to.

He’s certainly one of the few directors (with P.T. Anderson) who can afford to continue shooting on actual film in an era when digital cinema has become the norm. He’s not only shooting on film but in 70 mm and for The Hateful Eight he’s even used the extremely rare (this is only the 11th film to use) Ultra Panavision 70 MM process last used for Khartoum in 1966 resulting an in aspect ratio of 2.76:1 . In Belgium you won’t be able to see the film in 70 MM. When you see it digitally you’ll notice there’s some space left on the bottom and top of the screen as cinema screens are made for projecting the usual 2.35:1 widescreen ratio. The fact that most of the film takes place indoors ( a stage coach and the lodge) seems a bit perverse since cinemascope is known to be effective when filming vast landscapes and vistas and not necessarily for shooting indoor dialogue scenes. The photography (maestro Robert Richardson) is fantasic, look out for the detail of the snow that’s subtly constantly visible inside the lodge as well as the stagecoach, it’s as if the film is shot inside a snowglobe.

Once the introductions are over the film turns into a mix of an Agatha Christie whodunnit kind of story echoing films like Death by Murder (1976) starring Truman Capote (!?!?) as the host or René Clair’s And Then There Were None (1945, fitting title by the way) to name but a few, and horror films like Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead and John Carpenter’s version of The Thing (off course also starring Kurt Russell, even some of the Morricone score is used) and Tarantino’s very own Reservoir Dogs is not far away either.
Great westerns like André De Toth’s Day of the Outlaw (1959) and Henry Hathaway’s Rawhide (1951, not to be confused with the TV series starring Clint Eastwood) must have sprung up in his mind as well.

Mentioning all the references or nods to other movies or tv shows would be a sheer endless task as is always the case with filmbuff Tarantino’s movies but here are some none the less:
Budd Boetticher’s The Tall T (1957): bodies that are dumpted in a well.
Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven (1992): the predominant featuring of a an outdoor toilet in the distance.
The Coen brother’s O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000): 3 characters chained to each other and falling of a train wagon when one of them has fallen (2 in The Hateful Eight falling of the stagecoach).
Samuel Fuller’s Merrill’s Marauders (1962) and The Big Red One (1980): Mannix’s Marauders is mentioned several times in relation to the character of sheriff Chris Mannix played by Walton Waggons (of The Shield fame and also starring Tarantino’s previous film Django Unchained) whereas the crucifix statue in the snow in the opening shot brings to mind a similar statue in the prologue of The Big Red One.
Sergio Leone’s The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966): the torture scene where a character is beaten severely inside a small lodge of a Fort while outside a band is playing music to somewhat cover the screams is echoed in the scene where ‘Silent Night’ is being played on the piano while the Sam Jackson character is provoking ‘a reaction’ from the General character played by Bruce Dern by telling what he did with his son.
John Boorman: Was Tarantino trying to top “the squeal like a pig” scene from John Boorman’s Deliverance (1970) with his “forced fellatio” scene? He certainly used music from Boorman’s Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977), yet another Ennio Morricone score. (For the first time he’s used an original score not surprisingly by Ennio Morricone)
And last but not least, Brian De Palma, another one of Tarantino’s favorite directors: the face of Daisy Domergue covered with blood mirrors that of Sissy Spacek covered in pigs blood in Carrie (1976) (in this respect Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, 1974 could be a reference as well).
Tarantino uses a least one split diopter shot in each of his films as an homage to De Palma, in The Hateful Eight he used more than he ever did before.
The color palette of the final shot of The Hateful Eight (no spoiler) is definitely a nod to the color palette De Palma (and his DoP, the great Vilmos Zsigmond, who coincidentally died earlier this week) used throughout the entire film Blow Out (1981), namely Red, White and Blue refering to the colors of the American flag.

If you’re a fan of Tarantino’s wordplay you’ll have a ball with this movie. If you’ve always been more interested in his gunplay and his toying with chronology you’ll have to be patient. The film gives you everything you’ve come to expect from a Tarantino movie, his love for his characters to take on a role prentending to be something they’re not (“let’s get into character” as Jules and Vince would call it in Pulp Fiction; perhaps the most reoccuring theme in all of his movies), his great use of pre-existing music, e.g. the use of Roy Orbinson’s “There Won’t Be Many Coming Home” couldn’t be more suitable, but perhaps not in this dose.

Jan Bollen

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