BR: Hateful Eight, The (2015)

January 11, 2019 | By

Film: Very Good

Transfer:  Excellent

Extras: Good

Label:  Anchor Bay

Region: A

Released:  March 29, 2016

Genre:  Suspense / Thriller

Synopsis: A sheriff’s attempt to bring his murderous prisoner to the hangman’s noose is thwarted by a blizzard in the mountains, suspicious passengers, and a prolonged stay at a remote haberdashery.

Special Features:  2 Featurettes: “Beyond the Eight: A Behind the Scenes Look” (4:57) + “Sam Jackson’s Guide to Glorious 70mm” (7:48)

 


 

Review:

Branded as ‘the 8th film by Quentin Tarantino’ – a proclamation tied to the director’s subsequent 2016 statement in which he plans to “retire” after 10 films, and be confirmed as “one of the greatest film-makers that ever lived” – The Hateful Eight is both a fascinating creative experiment and proof again why his work can be so divisive among fans, critics, and his colleagues.

Tarantino’s opus – more of an elaborately filmed mystery play than western – is the first film shot in Ultra Panavision 70 (2.76:1) since Khartoum (1966), and was released in multiple versions & formats: a 167 min. general release version, and a 187 min. formal roadshow edition featuring Overture + Intermission + a few additional dialogue extensions.

The chaptered drama begins when a stagecoach carrying bounty hunter John Ruth (Kurt Russell) and prisoner Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) is stopped by fellow bounty hunter Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson), and soon-to-be-minted Sheriff Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins). Ruth and stagecoach driver O.B. (James parks) agrees to take on two new passengers (plus Warren’s three dead claims) to Red Rock, but their trip is paused when a brief stopover at Minnie’s little haberdashery is extended due to a nasty blizzard. Among the similarly trapped guests are General Sandy Smithers (Bruce Dern), cow-puncher Joe Gage (Michael Madsen), hired hand Bob (Demian Bichir), and itinerant hangman Oswaldo Mobray (Tim Roth) – all oddballs with varying eccentricities and degrees of limited social skills.

That’s really all one needs to know before settling into the film, but no doubt the technical feats – being shot in the widest film format using vintage lenses, and distributed in both 35mm, 4K DCP, and 70mm roadshow prints in select markets to cinemas still capable or upgraded to screen the film format – are on equal footing with its superb cast.

But then there’s the film’s running time design, which is reflective of Tarantino’s desire to present an epic, slow-burning mystery, and another example of his inability to edit material to its bare bones. The first 90 mins. is primarily dialogue exchanges designed to introduce characters, their respective backstories, and the seething conflicts and racism between post-Civil War veterans and scarred civilians. There are clashes between chivalry & brutality, truth & lies, and acts of respect & disrespect that devolve into horrible deeds of revenge which don’t necessarily shift the mystery of who will fire the first violent shot, but rather which character is a walking talking lie, and what is he / she up to.

What’s eventually established is one person among the group is a mole charged with waiting until everyone’s asleep before blowing off heads and freeing Daisy Domergue (pronounced “doh-mer-goo” instead of “do-mer-guh, ” as in 1950s actress Faith Domergue). And that’s where fans of westerns might find an echo to the revenge classic The Bravados (1958), in which the first act has a bounty hunter arriving in town for a hanging of the men he believes raped & murdered his wife, and the itinerant hangman who’s a mole that frees a quartet of scumbags after playing mind games and wordplay with sleepy lawmen. There’s a sense Tarantino liked the opening hook of mystery and decided to build a film around the waiting and angst that precede the revelation of the mole, which in Hateful Eight launches several salvos of tactile KNB practical gore (which is quite spectacular).

The first scenes of Tarantino’s lengthy first half isn’t badly written or indulgent, but lacks final trimming – the intention may have been to lull audiences into lesser violence through verbal threats before physical explosions – and there’s the director’s initially peculiar decision to provide narration at two junctures.

On video, the voice-overs by Tarantino aren’t necessary: the post-Intermission ‘Here’s what everyone’s doing now’ and ‘Here’s what happened to the first stagecoach and the women who run the haberdashery’ are respectively redundant and jarring to the film’s mounting, taut tension, but they may have been more purposeful in recapping and refreshing audiences returning from the lengthy Intermission break during the Roadshow presentation – something home viewers should keep in mind.

The flashbacks in the film’s shorter second half offer great contrasts between the genial, wry, business savvy women (Belinda Owino, Zoe Bell, and Dana Gourrier) and the arriving assassins waiting for the right time to act, but it’s a redundant sequence, because in the second half Warren picks out the flaws in the mole’s masquerade; the only new bit of information is the lone character who survives that first massacre and makes a deal with its auteur (unrecognizable Channing Tatum) to stay mum when Ruth arrives with Daisy.

Anticipation of violence within an unknown time-frame and contrasting, emotionally shifting characters are among the film’s genuine highlights, which (admittedly) include the buildup to the massacre in the flashback, and a final scene that preceded the Intermission: while Bob plays “Silent Night” on a badly tuned piano from a fuzzy memory, Warren and Smithers’ fireside chat shifts from a seated truce between olde Yankee and Confederate soldiers to an ugly revelation that signals the first violent salvo, and the beginning of the intense drama to which Tarantino was building. It’s perhaps the film’s most beautifully choreographed and morally revolting sequence, ending with a sustained piano note before Bob covers the keys – a simple, elegant signal to audiences that bad shit is coming very, very shortly.

 

SPOILER ALERT

The lingering, simmering ire between North & South among characters is more than palpable: a few are weary of old hates and move on to more tangible goals, like Ruth’s focus on ferrying Daisy to Red Rock irrespective of his racial bias; others are outright racists (like Daisy), mandating the heavy use of the N-word. Everyone says the taboo word – out of hate, humour, puzzlement – and you could argue Warren reclaims it after the worst users are done with, especially Daisy, who finally gets the hangman’s noose in the film’s blackest dose of humour: Warren watches her twitch with Mannix, a man who begins as a racist but arguably grows from a would-be sheriff to a man whose father would be quite proud: smarter, savvier, and whose instincts aren’t motivate by ignorance or primal hate.

The cast (including a tiny bit part for Lee Horsley!) is uniformly excellent, and Leigh gets her moment in a fantastic one-take speech to Mannix, covered in the blood and brain matter of her now-dead saviour, with busted front teeth adding to Daisy’s demonic persona.

END OF SPOILERS

 

Tarantino’s use of music has always been a mash-up of pre-existing cues and songs that clash time periods: interpolated here are The White Stripes’ “Apple Blossom,” Roy Orbison’s “There Won’t Be Many Coming Home,” and David Hess’ ”Now You’re All Alone from The Last House on the Left. Although he achieved his dream in having a western scored by Ennio Morricone, the score proper is a mish-mash of Morricone’s material from John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982), the main theme from John Boorman’s Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977), and an otherwise great new theme by the composer.

Fans familiar with Morricone’s work might find the patchwork of rerecorded cues clumsy. The Thing cues (reportedly unused, but immediately identifiable, and sounding like ever so slight alternates and outtakes) more often than not don’t match the subtext of a scene; and the Exorcist II cue is jarring because it conjures that film’s exceptionally dumb finale: Linda Blair doing a spinning dance to ward off a cloud of locusts.

Whether the film was temp-tracked with those cues or it was (as reported) a case where Morricone volunteered the outtakes plus a new theme due to time constraints, it’s at best an OK pastiche; a wholly original Morricone score would’ve been far superior. This unique case of a composer offering hand-picked, unrelated cues recalls Bernard Herrmann suggesting specific needle-drop stock music tracks when he wasn’t able / didn’t want to score Pim de la Parra’s Hitchcockian thriller Obsessions (1969).

The Hateful Eight story isn’t as clever as the director thinks, but the journey of both characters & audiences features some novel, striking twists and a pleasingly grisly finale. The blu-ray sports a crisp transfer that seems to be the roadshow version minus the Overture & Intermission – the scene extensions described in prior reviews as being exclusive to the longer version are in this transfer – and the 5.1 sound mix is subtle but appropriately aggressive when there’s eerie background meanderings or classic gunfire.

The extras, however, are rather generic and brief – a forced, ‘hip’ description of the Ultra Panavision 70 format by Jackson, and a shorter series of onset interviews during filming. For such a unique production, it’s odd the film wasn’t accompanied by colourful P.R. material, if not the Overture and Intermission which, if you want to get picky, should’ve been included. Many of the Roadshow versions of classic films restored for home video now include these music-only segments to hint at the formality of super-widescreen, multi-track audio epics. One suspects Tarantino is restricting them for 70mm presentations which, outside of rare exceptions, haven’t recurred in major markets since the film’s original theatrical run.

Although not expressly about Ultra Panavision 70, Peter Flynn’s documentary Dying of the Light (2015) has a closing segment on the rush to restore and ship out 70mm projection systems to participating Hateful Eight cinemas. A 2016 piece extolling the virtues of the widescreen format adds further details.

 

 

© 2019 Mark R. Hasan

 


 

 


 

External References:
Editor’s BlogIMDB  —  Soundtrack AlbumComposer Filmography
 
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Category: Blu-ray / DVD Film Review

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