Words by: Jack Dawson
The Hateful Eight is one of Tarantino’s bloodiest films and populated with some of his most villainous characters. For a lot of people, that might be all they need to know, it’s a typical Tarantino film turned up to eleven, with a slow boil that culminates in a truly memorable explosion. If you’re not up for long talks between morally complex characters followed by enough fake blood to paint a large house, then this isn’t the film for you. But if, like me, that’s exactly what you’re looking for during this awards season, then Tarantino delivers.
Eight reprehensible individuals are in Wyoming, all travelling to the town of Red Rock, get ambushed by a blizzard. Now all eight are trapped in Minnie’s Haberdashery, with every single individual capable of terrible cruelties and every single other person putted against the other. It’s clear that someone is going to die before the night is out, it’s just a question of who, when, and just how deep the rot goes.
Also, instead of a random Australian character who shows up at the beginning of the final act, a random New Zealand woman shows up. So it’s got that going for it.
It’s difficult to think of something to say about The Hateful Eight, since Tarantino’s films are by now reliable to a fault, an audience member can make an educated guess about whether Tarantino’s latest is worth seeing based on his other films. Tarantino remains an accomplished master of pacing and character dynamics, with a practiced eye for distinct details and layered characters and a willingness to get nasty when circumstances call for it.
And boy does he get nasty in this film, partly because Tarantino is so skilled at misleading the audience. It’s reasonable to assume that you have the measure of most of the characters when you first see them, with one or two particularly enigmatic individuals who propel the plot forwards. But as the story unfolds, and in particular after a monologue that is sure to sear itself onto the memory of everyone watching, the audience is left with the realization that they have no idea what any of the character’s true intentions are. It’s a masterpiece of storytelling, and the result of the glorious alchemy of a skilled director and equally skilled actors.
But there are a few stumbles along the way, there’s a particularly egregious misuse of slow motion in the finale, and the character of Minnie doesn’t always correspond to the descriptions applied to her. The slow boil I mentioned above may be a little too slow for some people, and some of the twists would have benefited from some more set-up.
But the biggest issue that seems to invite criticism in The Hateful Eight seems to be the question of whether or not it’s misogynistic. This accusation seems rooted in the treatment of the major female character of the film, Daisy Domergue. This treatment mostly consists of being beaten half to hell, strangled, covered in blood and generally referred to as ‘bitch’ more than she is by her real name.
For my part I’d actually consider something like The Revenant to be more misogynistic than The Hateful Eight, if only because the female characters in this film (all four of them) actually have character and personality traits of their own, which is more than The Revenant could claim for either of its female characters. Hell the female characters have names, and agency for that matter, which is also more than The Revenant can claim. Actress Jennifer Jason Leigh doesn’t believe that The Hateful Eight is misogynistic, stating that “It’s so unsexist because it’s not, ‘Oh she’s the girl so let’s treat her differently, let’s be careful and gentle around her.’ No, she’s as bad as they come.”
And while I agree that Tarantino wouldn’t have changed much about the treatment of the character if she had been a male prisoner, Daisy would have been beaten half to hell even if she had been Duke, there is something a little uneasy about the treatment that Daisy receives in the film, to say nothing of how she is constantly verbally abused. It’s uncomfortable to watch, and I still grapple with the question of whether it’s intentionally so.
The Hateful Eight might not be for everyone, but fans of Tarantino’s work and intelligent ultraviolence should check it out at the earliest possibility. It’s a violent and bloody mess that thinks very little of its fellow man, and even less of the placating narratives Americans apply to their history in popular media.
It still juggles that pessimism with a sense of fun that’s remarkable to behold. It leaves me wondering where Tarantino might go next, whether he’ll try for one more western or try his hand at another genre.
This is his eighth film so far, perhaps it only gets bloodier from here.