Throughout “Spooktober,” Nicklaus Neitling reviews one horror property each weekday.
Quentin Tarantino does subtlety the same way I do writing: not well.
Indeed, his less than subtle eighth directorial effort, The Hateful Eight, is polarizing for a number of reasons. From abuse of Daisy Domergue to Tarantino’s style as a director, there is a lot of issues to take away from this film. I didn’t really enjoy the film until I realized what it is: Quentin Tarantino’s perfect horror movie.
The story takes about 45 minutes to start, making it one of Tarantino’s slowest movies to date. Its plot is fairly barebones, something uncommon for Tarantino. It follows John Ruth, “The Hangman” (Kurt Russell), escorting his bounty Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) to Red Rock. Along the way, he encounters Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson) and Chris Mannix (Walton Groggins), the new hopeful sheriff of Red Rock. A blizzard forces them to take refuge at Minnie’s Haberdashery until it blows over. Instead of Minnie waiting with open arms, they are greeted by Señor Bob (Demián Bichir), Oswalt Mobray (Michael Madsen), Joe Gage (Tim Roth), and General Sandy Smithers ( Bruce Dern). Ruth, determined to keep his bounty, begins to question everyone, but no one is giving answers.
Major spoilers ahead.
The film’s horror starts about one hour and 45 minutes into its runtime. We know the coffee is poisoned, we know Warren just shot Smithers after an expertly delivered monologue, and finally, we know Ruth drank the coffee. The film lingers on this for about five minutes, building up tension as Domergue waits for the poison to take hold and Ruth looks at the haberdashery’s residents, trying to determine who’s on her side and who’s actually who they say they are. Finally, Domergue flashes a smile to cue Ruth’s gruesome death. Warren then takes control of the room in chaos, forcing the remaining characters (Chris Mannix, Oswald Mobray, Joe Gage, and Señor Bob) against the wall.
Here’s where the horror enters. Now that Ruth is dead, the only person we potentially know who they say they are is Warren, who’s keeping Domergue in chains. Through monologuing, Warren tries to discover who’s friend and who’s foe. He finds out Bob as a foe, but then the camera pans down to reveal another character hidden under the floor. Tarantino tells us that it wasn’t just Bob: it was all three.
While the plot catches up with the bleeding characters, the horror now shifts from the interrogation’s pure tension to the horror of humanity, as the story’s supposed heroes murder their foes in a brutal bloodbath. To Tarantino, paranormal monsters aren’t scary, masked killers don’t keep him up at night, and ghosts are child’s play. The Hateful Eight shows us that people are the scariest creatures.
I find The Hateful Eight much more enjoyable seen through this light: as a horror film. Don’t like the movie, or think Quentin Tarantino is overrated? Don’t @ me ever.