They’re pretty vile, I’ll give you that.
Tarantino’s Hateful Eight are a horrible bunch of misfits, ne’er-do-wells and sociopaths dressed up in a folksy Western cloak. They’re vile, they’re murderous and they are without any discernible moral compass.
They are, in other words, the standard cast of any Tarantino movie and perhaps that’s why I found it hard to buy into The Hateful Eight. Do I really want to be watching endless Tarantino reworkings of Tim Roth or Samuel L Jackson, no matter how entertaining I might find them? Do I not need to be challenged? Should I really sink into my Tarantino bubble and relax into my dose of gratuitous graphic violence, secure in knowing that it has been delivered by the Greatest Living Cinephile?
Would it not be a wonderful thing to enjoy The Hateful Eight in the certainty that Quentin Tarantino has probably peppered it it with hundreds of knowing insider jokes? Many, many filmic homages? Countless intimidating arty allusions?
No. It wouldn’t. I just want to be at the pictures.
I’m a bit of a philistine. I’m one of those people who like to just see a movie and enjoy it. In other words, I’m one of just about everybody. I just like to enjoy a movie without people trying to turn it into Art.
It’s a picture. Enjoy it or don’t enjoy it. That’s up to you. Never mind the Big Art.
So what about The Hateful Eight?
Well, we can say that it’s definitely Tarantino. It’s brutal. It’s cartoonish. It’s gratuitously violent, which is not normally a thing I’d object to, except that it really is gratuitously violent. Really. It is. Do not go to see this movie if gratuitous violence upsets you.
If you enjoy vast biblical expanses of bleak, beautifully-executed 70mm cinematography and magnificent orations by Samuel L Jackson, go to this movie. If you enjoy absurd, unnecessarily graphic violence, go to this movie. If you like knowingly-staged tableaux, or even tableaus, go to see this picture because when it all comes down to dust, this is a stage production. Once you disregard the introductory hour, this is a mannered, carefully considered play with all the action taking place in single room. This is Agatha Christie in Wyoming.
Who else wrote about Wyoming in the modern era? Of course it was Annie Proulx who produced the defining collection of Wyoming stories, Close Range, and all the essential elements are here, apart from the blood bay: the man-eating horse. What a shame Tarantino didn’t think of putting a man-eating horse into a story that contains every other single absurdity, including the magnificent Bruce Dern as an ancient, embittered Confederate general.
Nobody in this film is likeable. You want them all to die and they do their best to satisfy your wishes. They genuinely are a horrible, bunch. You find yourself wishing that movies could become truly interactive so that cinemas could hand out virtual guns along with 3D glasses and you could simply murder your most detested characters there and then. But in the case of The Hateful Eight, things could turn a little ugly. Not only would you want to murder the entire cast of the film with your virtual gun, but you’d probably want to track down the director and give him a couple of virtual slugs in the virtual skull while you’re at it.
What did I make of The Hateful Eight?
I don’t know. Violence porn, perhaps. Tarantino self-gratification. Geek cinema. This film probably contains more cinema references than a hatful of PhD theses, but all I want is a cinematic experience.
Did I get it? Yes. I got a cinematic experience.
Was it rewarding? Well, that depends how you frame the question. I saw a film that contained many arresting images and events. I did not see a film that made much sense to me.
To that extent, I suppose, The Hateful Eight has to go in the bin, for me at least.
Naturally, you’re free to enjoy it and to tell me what a fool I am for thinking otherwise.