Tarantino’s latest was somewhat bloodier than I expected

FILM by Aidan Morgan

The Hateful Eight
Cineplex, Southland
2 out of 5

The Hateful Eight is either the least essential of Quentin Tarantino’s films or the key to his craft. It’s a gorgeous, nihilistic gorefest crammed with so much Tarantino that it oozes from the edges of the screen (for the sake of this argument I postulate Tarantino is an oozeable substance).

Hardcore fans will be out with buckets and scrapers, but regular audiences will likely want to lift their legs to keep their shoes clean.

Set in the Wyoming mountains about a decade after the Civil War, The Hateful Eight tracks a wagon carrying a bounty hunter (Kurt Russell doing a Lee Marvin-John Wayne mashup) and his prisoner, Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh), on their way to the town of Red Rock. Along the way the wagon stops to pick up another bounty hunter (Samuel Jackson, sitting atop a pile of frozen corpses) and an ex-Confederate sheriff (the ever-welcome Walton Goggins). Unhealed racial wounds begin to fester immediately as the characters delve into each other’s pasts in a wagon scene that goes on so long that even the most dedicated fans of Tarantino’s dialogue might check their watches.

Hounded by a blizzard, the wagon pulls into Minnie’s Haberdashery to wait out the storm, but the owners are mysteriously absent. In their place are a gallery of eccentric characters, each of whom seems a little too casual about the missing Minnie. As the wagon party settles in, the claustrophobia and tension established in the wagon ride starts ratcheting up by tiny increments. It’s a bit like watching a watermelon fall from a tall building in excruciatingly slow motion, if the watermelon spouted racial epithets all the way down.

Given The Hateful Eight is a Tarantino film, it’s hardly a spoiler to say that the watermelon finally hits the ground and the gore starts flying. Tarantino has always enjoyed bullets and blades, but rarely has he employed them with so much blood-soaked glee. Eventually it’s clear he’s pulled one of his genre switcheroos: just as Inglorious Basterds smuggled a spaghetti Western into a wartime drama, H8 shoves a giallo film — or possibly a Jacobean revenge play — into a western.

By the end, the writing is so slovenly I suspect Tarantino didn’t check his script for basic continuity issues.

I still can’t decide if The Hateful Eight is a step backward or the clearest possible showcase for Tarantino’s sensibilities. Either way, you’ll feel like taking a shower afterwards.