The Hateful Eight (2015)

The Hateful Eight (2015)

written and directed by Quentin Tarantino


Quentin Tarantino. Eight vicious killers in a cabin. A snowstorm outside. You bet your ass the blood will flow. Strange Orphan Boxes invited me to participate in a conversation about the 70mm opus and the end result was one surreal Tarantino-style narrative. Enjoy.

Rating: ***½

Carlos I. Cuevas

hateful-eight-kurt-russell-samuel-l-jackson

Prologue

INT. DINER – MORNING

LESTER’S in Ft. Lauderdale is a typical, though large, diner filled with mostly older people and families having breakfast. It’s about 10 am.

At a booth, near the counter, sit three geeks in their 40s, drinking coffee and lost in thoughtful discussion, almost unaware of their surroundings. Almost as if they were actually not in this diner at all, but rather miles apart, using Google Hangouts to have this conversation about Quentin Tarantino’s latest film, The Hateful Eight. A conversation they’ve been meaning to have for some time but couldn’t find the time.

GERRY

So where would you rank this?

ED

Top five for me probably. But not best.

CARLOS

Well, Death Proof (2007) is the worst.

ED

Right!

CARLOS

Even by his own admission.

ED

This had a lot of depth.

CARLOS

Jackie Brown (1997) is #1 for me.

ED

Loved that!

GERRY

I think for me it’s likely top 5 as well. I might be rewatching them all soon and doing a full ranking.

ED

Good idea! I’ll bring the beer.

GERRY

Lugene!

CARLOS

Then Kill Bill (2003-2004), Reservoir Dogs (1992), and then this one probably. Not sure.

ED

Kill Bill is high for me

GERRY

I’m not sure Kill Bill is that high for me. It might be, but I don’t know. We’ll see.

ED

Marathon!

GERRY

You know I met him once.

Chapter 1: Excitement! Passion! Archetypes!

EXT. MOUNTAIN TERRAIN – DAY

All is white. There is A STAGECOACH, pulled by 6 horses, with the door open. From inside, GERRY seems to be waiting for ED and CARLOS to come in. From their heavy coats, it’s clear that it’s cold as a motherfucker. ED and CARLOS look at each other and nod, confirming that it’s safe.

ED

We all saw the full 70mm version. It was the hype that drew us in – the passion for the format.

CARLOS

So let’s start there.

All three now nod in agreement.

INT. STAGECOACH – DAY

The coach is wobbly as the conversation continues.

ED

I loved that excitement. It rivaled the Star Wars series, but in a different way. More tangible. I was excited for the program and I took a picture of the actual film in the projector.

GERRY

Before we even get to the movie, though, I was really struck by the blue Cinerama screen at the beginning. Maybe that’s a common thing with Cinerama theaters that still exist, but it really made the whole experience seem huge to me. Something about that blue reflected back in the theater from the screen took me back to how big and special movie theaters seemed back in the day. The most direct thing it reminded me of was actually this old attraction at Disney World called Circlerama-360 that surrounded you in a movie. It was kinda boring, but still felt enormous. I think that had a similar blue screen at the beginning like that.

CARLOS

I love widescreen and would see everything in that format. Having said that, do you feel that this film in particular needed to be in 70mm?

ED

Yes. It was all in a room, but it was another level of storytelling: the format gave it more impact and a certain grandiose nature. It was about these people paying for their sins. And being a western, it’s always a big allegory. So yes, wide format in a room made it larger than life. It’s like, why not. I’ve always wanted to get away with it. Why waste it on beautiful empty landscapes when really what’s interesting are the people in it?

Ed sits back with a satisfied look on his face, almost daring the others to contradict his point. Gerry casually packs and lights an old style pipe. Carlos looks out the window, longingly, considering Ed’s point as the silence hangs there.

GERRY

That’s a good point on the landscapes. Wide screen humanity. I wonder how much of that is intentional though. I think of Tarantino as a movie geek more than a literary type filmmaker who is working with subtext or anything like that. Though some of that does always come through in his work.

CARLOS

I agree with the whole impact of having it show the way they would big spectacle movies from the past: overture, intermission, extra footage in a special presentation. It really showcases Tarantino’s geek passion for film. More than whether the story “warrants” such treatment, and you can argue it doesn’t, the sheer joy Tarantino brings to it is infectious. The cinematography here is superb. Those close-ups of the characters’ faces – Kurt Russell’s mustache, Jennifer Jason Leigh’s bloody face – are amazing.

ED

He’s all about his characters and all that gets said about them is just a reflection of him just bringing them to life. Love or hate them – and mostly you hate what they do – you’re in it with them. Gritty and unforgiving movie. Maybe his most unforgiving?

GERRY

His characters are usually more archetypes than real humans. Would you say that’s true here as well? Did anyone come across as more “real”?

ED

Whether or not they’re archetypal, he makes them real.

GERRY

Sure, and it’s not a criticism, but I never really feel like I’m connected to his characters in a meaningful way beyond them being characters in a movie. Nothing wrong with that, though. I just never forget it’s a movie.

ED

I don’t know. I connect with many because they have nothing in common with me other than little humorous traits; however, you understand why they do the horrible things they do sometimes. I ended up liking the characters you’re set up to hate at first: Walton Goggins’ Sheriff Chris Mannix and Jennifer Jason Leigh’s Daisy Domergue.

GERRY

I think the format heightens the sense of what I’m saying about the characters. These are larger than life images more than they are people and to a certain extent the characters themselves know it.

CARLOS

The only one of his films in which his characters seem more than archetypes to me and I connect in a more meaningful way is Jackie Brown.

GERRY

Yes. It’s why I think I tend to like that a lot more than most people. It shows range from him.

CARLOS

I don’t think he’s been able to top that. It’s his most mature work. Interestingly, it’s the one he considers a bit of a failure because his fans don’t seem to like it as much, which is perhaps why he went back to the more over-the-top stuff.

ED

I felt this wasn’t a foray into anything new by him.

Chapter 2: Carlos.

TIGHT CLOSE UP: CARLOS’S FACE

CARLOS

I have always liked Jennifer Jason Leigh. She’s always been underrated in my opinion, and here she delivers a performance full of fury.

INT. HOME OFFICE – DAY

The room is filled with shelves of DVDs, CDs and books. There are framed movie posters on the walls: Tarantino, Carpenter, Scorsese are all represented. Carlos sits at a computer with a large monitor, his face appears large on the screen as he speaks directly to the webcam.

CARLOS

For a while you think she’s a bad apple, yet you feel kind of bad that she’s being taken to her death. Then you realize she’s a really bad apple. And even then at the end I still felt kind of bad at the horrible way they kill her, deservedly or not.

He pauses, visibly shaken by the memory. He takes out a pack of Red Apple Cigarettes, removes one from the pack, puts it to his lips, lights it with a Zippo lighter and takes a calming drag. He holds it for a second and lets it out.

TIGHT CLOSE UP – CARLOS’S FACE

CARLOS

That moment – when she plays the guitar and sings that song, fully aware of the fact Kurt Russell’s character is about to die – that is probably one of my favorite moments in the film.

Chapter 3: Incorrect.

INT. CAR – DAY

Carlos is driving a mid 70s sedan, with a large interior. Gerry sits in the passenger seat, fiddling with the radio. Bits of different types of music including surf, soul, country, blues and pop play before Gerry settles on “A Uma Gina” by Sergio Borges and Conjunto Joao Paulo. Ed is in the back, flipping through a The Hateful Eight program.

CARLOS

Gina!

GERRY

How did you guys like the whole thing where Sam Jackson’s character, Major Marquis Warren, tells Bruce Dern’s General Sandy Smithers the story about killing his son?

ED

Mixed from me.

GERRY

Why is that?

ED

Not sure they needed the visuals to keep the tension.

CARLOS

I thought that was great.

ED

It felt Pulp Fiction-esque (1994). It was comical. Which isn’t inherently bad…

GERRY

It was supposed to be comical, though.

ED

But it made me like Sam’s character less.

CARLOS

It was funny and filled with suspense.

ED

It took us outside though.

GERRY

He’s clearly making most of that up and, as a matter of fact, when he’s telling it, he says “Are you getting a picture?” while looking directly at us.

ED

The pretty landscape shot was this tortuous fellatio. I felt it was through the eyes of the old man.

GERRY

This Tortuous Fellatio is my favorite emo band.

CARLOS

Yeah, I had no issues with it. I’m not sure Sam Jackson is supposed to be likable anyway. None of them are, really.

ED

Right. It reminded us not to like him.

GERRY

Ed is incorrect.

Carlos stops the car suddenly, turning around to look at Ed, then at Gerry.

CARLOS

He was incorrect in our review of Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015) too.

ED

Fuck yourselves, you must.

CARLOS

Why do you keep inviting him?

GERRY

I thought you did.

ED

It’s the band names I come up with.

Carlos turns back to the wheel, apparently satisfied. He starts driving again.

GERRY

One thing that stood out to me as something Tarantino should try to stop doing is the chapter break thing. I get it, and it’s not like it doesn’t work, but enough.

CARLOS

Agreed. He has overdone that a bit. Another thing that seemed very interesting to me in this film is Tarantino’s handling of race, which to me comes across as more thoughtful than some of his other films. I think all his-

ED

Maybe that’s why I felt it was a rehash of ideas he has already presented.

CARLOS

The chapters?

ED

Yes.

CARLOS

What was I saying?

ED

Race relations.

CARLOS

I think all his movies are preoccupied with race relations up to a point, but his commentary here regarding racism is both in-your-face and kind of nuanced at the same time.

ED

It was a great backbone to their intentions. They had their own preconceptions and followed through with them. At first, Sheriff Mannix came off as one note, but in the end, showed to have the most depth.

GERRY

Agreed on race. I think the commentary is incredibly nuanced. By the end of it I’m not entirely sure what, if anything, he ultimately wanted to say about it, but it made me think of several things along the way. The main one that stands out is the issue of trust and safety between white and black America.

ED

Agreed. Nothing was summed up.

GERRY

It winds up being that the black guy and the most racist character there are the only two who can ultimately trust each other in the end. But it’s not as simple as that either.

ED

They weren’t friends. They were only together from circumstance. And they’re both fucked at the end anyway.

CARLOS

That’s a brilliant intro to the two characters, seeing their hate of each other while they ride the stagecoach.

Carlos parks the car.

EXT. LESTER’S DINER PARKING LOT – MORNING

Ed, Gerry and Carlos exit the car, and walk towards the diner, while talking.

GERRY

But at the end of the day, they were both duplicitous, though. Warren had the letter which Mannix was never fooled by. And Warren was never fooled by Mannix’s smiling routine.

ED

They never trust each other. Felt like an old movie on the study of character in circumstance.

GERRY

They don’t, but they trust enough to know not to trust which means they do.

CARLOS

Did you feel the movie was too long? Or just the right length?

ED

The movie moved very quickly. Right length.

GERRY

I never felt bored.

ED

Me neither.

They enter the diner.

INTERMISSION

Chapter 4: The Turn.

INT. LESTER’S DINER – MORNING
A WAITRESS, in her 50s, brings the bill to the booth where Gerry, Ed, and Carlos sit. Carlos takes it and passes it to Gerry, who passes it to Ed.

GERRY
I really liked coming back from intermission to have it directly referenced by the VO. It managed to somehow simultaneously call attention to the fact that we were watching a movie and yet these characters exist while we’re away. It’s a bit of a tightrope walk. I’m curious how that bit plays out in the digital version.
CARLOS
I personally liked the VO, but I can see why it would irk some. It’s not needed, but it’s what I come to expect from Tarantino’s interest in keeping you off your toes narratively.
ED
(absently, looking at the bill)
Agreed on VO – the characters exist without audience.
They stand and walk toward the cashier, by the front door. There is no line. Ed pays while Gerry and Carlos stand by.
CARLOS

This also feels to me like two different movies, split by the intermission. The first plays like more of a western, the second feels almost like a whodunit/horror piece. Which is one of the things I like about Tarantino, how he plays with genre so effortlessly. Reminded me a little of From Dusk Til Dawn (1996), which is not a good film yet has that same sense of gonzo attitude.

GERRY

I hated From Dusk Til Dawn, but yeah, I see that. Though here it’s very seamless, maybe because we stay with the same characters and it really did build from the events in the first half. It’s more of an elaborate set up than two movies in a way.

ED

It was weird and I want to see the regular version too now.

As Ed puts his wallet back in his pocket, we see that it does not say anything on it. At all.
CARLOS

One thing we didn’t talk about was Jennifer Jason Leigh.

ED

Her character and the sheriff are the ones who I remember the best.

GERRY
She’s always great.
CARLOS

Let’s talk about her character tomorrow.

GERRY
(clearly lying)
Yeah, let’s do that.
They exit the diner.

Chapter 5: Ed. (Carlos interrupts)

BLACK SCREEN

ED

I despise them all.

INT. TAP ROOM – DAY
There is a crowd gathered at the bar. Ed is behind the bar, serving up beers. They all look delicious as he pours them from the vast multitude of taps behind him, all in proper glasses. He speaks to nobody in particular.
ED

Sure, Sam Jackson’s Major Marquis Warren comes off as the hero initially, careful with his words and sizing up everyone, knowing his situation is not safe, but as we come to know all the others with their dirty pasts and nasty words, you come to see the dark sides of everyone you trust and the good sides of those you don’t.

He takes one freshly poured glass, inspects in the light, and takes a sip. He looks satisfied.
ED

Walton Goggins as Chris Mannix spits racism right from the start, yet surprises us with a story about being the new sheriff and eventually a slight sense of trust as situations turn from bad to dangerous later on in the movie.

As he gives one glass to a nearby patron, we see that it is Carlos, who takes the dark, frothy beverage and sips it, leaving a foam mustache in place, which he does not wipe away.

CARLOS

What about that glorious Ennio Morricone score? I thought the soundtrack was amazing, perfectly capturing the mood of the film, particularly during the overture. Morricone’s main theme speaks to the inevitable fate of the characters. Once I heard those descending strings, I knew everyone in this film (or almost everyone) would certainly die. Violently.

Ed makes a dismissive face at Carlos, nods his head, and turns back to the taps.
TIGHT CLOSE UP – ED
ED

We don’t know who to trust or who to like, and our allegiances turn as the genre of the movie turns. I’d spend even more time in this cabin in the snow with these awful antiheroes if they released an even longer, uncut version of this danger. Great characters, great vile, vicious humanity spit in our faces once again by our master chef of character, Q.

Chapter 6: Hype and Fanboys.

EXT. LESTER’S PARKING LOT – MORNING

Gerry, Ed and Carlos walk out of the diner.
CARLOS

The other day I read an interview with Tarantino where he commented on his greatness as a filmmaker, saying his plan was to film only ten films and go out in a blaze of glory. That his films would be seen by kids 100 years from now, celebrated by students of the form. He sounded like a complete douche. I have no idea whether or not he was joking – maybe he’s a pretentious asshole. But it’s hard to argue with the statement. He’s probably one of the most vital American filmmakers alive.

GERRY

He’ll make more than that. He’s been saying that for some time. It’s just nonsense.

ED

He’s believed in his hype. And I don’t know that I blame him. He’s larger than life now, I guess.

CARLOS

Even better. I’m definitely in line for the next two.

Epilogue: Gerry and Quentin.

INT. NIGHTCLUB – NIGHT

It’s a high end, South Beach-type club filled with fancy looking people in fancy looking clothes. There is 90s house music playing. We follow various people through the crowd.

GERRY (V.O.)

Back in 96, I was in film school. I had just wrapped my first production assistant gig on a low budget indie film and was invited to the wrap party at a local high end restaurant and cigar club. As it turned out, one of the producers of the film had also worked on Curdled (1996), which was executive produced by Quentin Tarantino, and at one point, while I was drunk and uncharacteristically dancing with strangers, someone told us Quentin was next door and there was no way the night was ending without at least a glance at QT.

We come to Gerry in his mid 20s, dressed in slacks, fancy shirt and sport coat, dancing and clearly drunk among the crowd, near the bar. A random person from the crowd steps up and yells something in his ear and he follows them and few others towards a door in the back.

GERRY (V.O.)

The quest to crash the VIP party next door was a haze since I was pretty drunk and I think it involved going through a kitchen, like some low grade version of Goodfellas (1990).

INT. HIGH CLASS RESTAURANT/CIGAR CLUB – NIGHT

Gerry follows the group from the previous scene in via a side door. This is different from the previous club. It’s clearly a VIP type place and looks vaguely like a den. There is a large bar and waiting area with a separate dining area visible through a doorway, guarded by a Maitre D at a podium. Sitting at a large table behind the Maitre D is a large group of people. Among them is QUENTIN TARANTINO, possibly wearing a loud Hawaiian shirt which stands out in the fancy surroundings. He is about to have dinner.

Someone Gerry is with points over to Quentin, showing Gerry. There is a moment of pause before Gerry looks to his side and spots SOME GIRL, who he grabs by the hand (uncharacteristically) and leads her towards where Quentin sits.

GERRY (V.O.)

Once I saw him, I think I just acted. I don’t know, but since I was drunk, I think I grabbed some girl that was with us and walked straight for him. Or maybe she grabbed me.

As they walk, the girl stops, rips Gerry’s hand off of her arm and then grabs his arm and begins leading him toward where Quentin sits. Gerry nods as if saying this makes more sense. She stops at the Maitre D and talks to him for a brief moment, before just barging through anyway, dragging Gerry behind her.

GERRY (V.O.)

It was that rude imposition you always hear celebs talk about as we interrupted his dinner, but I remember telling him he was the reason I was in film school, which was at least partially true. He was super gracious and didn’t seem to be annoyed at all.

CUT TO: LATER THAT NIGHT

Gerry stands against a column, apparently barely conscious, staring at Quentin a few feet away, lighting a cigar.

GERRY (V.O.)

Later that night, I was hanging out, still in a haze because it was open bar for us, and there he was lighting a cigar.

Suddenly, Quentin looks over and seems to notice Gerry. He seems to recognize him from earlier and smiles at him.

QUENTIN TARANTINO

Hey buddy. How you doing?

Gerry just looks at him, about to say something, but he’s not sure if he can do so and remain standing.

GERRY (V.O.)

And I can’t really remember what I said other than “yeah.” Then we both nodded knowingly, acknowledging how drunk I was before he walked off. Maybe if I hadn’t been so drunk there would have been a long conversation leading to a job. Or not, but maybe.

Quentin walks away. Gerry stands there for a second, then begins talking directly to the camera.

GERRY

So the moral of the story is don’t drink and meet your heroes, I guess. But the real point is I’m a Tarantino groupie. Have been ever since I saw Reservoir Dogs and sort of decided to go to film school. I wanted to make movies before then, but that movie and the indie film movement of the 90s finally pushed me. It never worked out, but that’s a different story for another time.

FADE OUT

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