The Hateful Eight: The Thing Meets the West (Review)

Samuel L Jackson in The Hateful Eight

Quentin Tarantino and his publicity heavy film “The Hateful Eight” (It should have been billed as the movie that was almost never made) is entertaining in a “The Thing” meets the west sort of way.  Tarantino has said that he was massively influenced by John Carpenter’s film, which also had Kurt Russell in it, as well as TV westerns like “Bonanza.”  Although it still feels like this film owes more to Sergio Leone than “High Chaparral.”

Ennio Morricone, who provided the music to Leone’s Spaghetti Westerns and Carpenter’s “The Thing” scored this latest Tarantino offering and the film also uses, apparently, music never heard but intended for Carpenter’s 1982 film.

A group of strangers shelter from a blizzard in Minnie’s Haberdashery. One man, John Ruth (Kurt Russell) has a prisoner for hanging in Red Rock; Daisie Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh). Along the way he acquires Samuel L. Jackson, in the guise of Major Warren and Walter Goggins, who plays the new sheriff of Red Rock; Chris Mannix.

Ruth and his three traveling companions, along with O.B. the stagecoach driver, arrive at Minnie’s to find four men waiting out the storm. Minnie and Sweet Dave  are missing and they appear to have left Bob (Demián Bichir) in charge.  Amid racial tensions, post  Civil War hostilities and a sense of mutual mistrust, the two bounty hunters, Ruth and Warren, band together to ensure Domergue hangs. 

As this is a Tarantino film it is overly long and at nearly three hours it makes for a long time in one spot. However, despite the length, “The Hateful Eight” does not drag. The leisurely pace adds to the mystery of who is really up to what and allows for a claustrophobic feel to the proceedings.

There are numerous nods to “The Thing“, for example,  the scenes where the line is run to the outhouse, and later when O.B. prepares to head to the structure and later as he starts to head back are very reminiscent in terms of  framing and lighting to the original Carpenter feature.

“The Hateful Eight” has a few  other nods and winks to films that are not by John Carpenter. The poisoning scene, where Ruth (Russell) and O.B. (James Parks) forcibly vomit copious amounts of blood is highly reminiscent of Takashi Miike (in particular the poisoned coffee scene in “Fudoh: The New Generation“). It also smacks of the reaction to poisoned soup in the “light house” scene in Battle Royale (directed by Kinji Fukasaku) an event that leads to a climatic shootout between Japanese schoolgirls. 

Leaving aside the notions of homages and “nods” to other films or directors (something Tarantino is well known for) it is interesting to note that Daisy Domergue, as played by Leigh, is an oddly sexless/genderless character throughout most of the film.

Apart from the information given that Daisy is a female that will  hang for murder, the character comes across as more young pre-teen male juvenile delinquent than femme fatale.  Impish, mischievous and recalcitrant Domergue does nothing feminine. She exudes no sexuality at all.

It is interesting to note that her relationship with Ruth, when it is not dealing with obstinacy from ether side or pushing boundaries, comes over almost like a father and his naughty child. (Granted Ruth is a bit violent in his recriminations of Daisy’s offenses, but it has more of a familial feel than anything else.)

Bizarrely, Daisy only becomes feminine in death. Hair down and her shoes visible from below makes her shed the facade of genderless hooligan.

The cast list is impressive for Quentin’s eighth film.  Tim Roth, Jackson, Leigh,  Russell, Bruce Dern,  Bichir, Channing Tatum, Zoë Bell (who is becoming a regular), Walton GogginsMichael Madsen and Tarantino who gives a sort of cameo performance as the “not really needed” narrator that was, nonetheless, a nice touch. 

In terms of cameos Lee Horsley turns up as part of the stage driving team with Perry and Gene Jones (Dementia, No Country for Old Men) does a turn as “Sweet Dave.”

Sadly, watching the film via Amazon, the 70MM print does nothing for the streaming experience and while it may well have looked spectacular on today’s version of a big screen, it seems an unnecessary “gimmick.”  There are a few continuity errors here and there (mainly to do with Ms. Leigh’s teeth) but these do not detract from the film.

Tarantino’s “The Hateful Eight” does what he intended; it entertains. There are some splendid comic moments;  some intense, yet short, shoot-outs and he attempts to bring a bit of authenticity to the time period.

Kudos to Leigh for her performance as Daisy and a huge nod to Demián Bichir who proves he has lost none of his comedic timing with his portrayal of “Bob.”

This film is a full 5 star spectacle, even when viewed via Amazon, or whatever streaming site one uses.  A brilliant follow-on to Django: Unchanged and it leads one to wish fervently that Tarantino will make another western soon.  He has a definite knack for it.


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