Quentin Tarantino's 8th film is a twisted Valentine to movie audiences. While the hip humor of Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction are absent, we do get a radical bending of the Western genre.
The Hateful Eight pushes the envelope of what a mainstream audience will accept at the current moment with frequent use of the word "nigger" and repulsive acts of violence cajoling the audience to either walk out or laugh.
In saying that The Hateful Eight is compelling cinema. Every performer chews up the scenery. There's an extreme slow burn tension. Most of the violence is confined to the second half. But when the violence arrives, it's unrelenting.
Set at a remote general store in the mountains of Wyoming sometime after The Civil War where a motley group of people find themselves stranded, some of who know each other.
As in his two previous movies, Inglorious Basterds and Django Unchanged, historical injustice and revenge are key themes. In an age of ever greater political correctness, where controversial themes of history are too much for senstive college students to handle, Tarantino throws a wrench into the debate.
The Hateful Eight distills these issues into a micro universe being swallowed up by hatred. Entropy before our eyes.
Tarantino blends Western and Horror tropes. The first half seems inspired by old episodes of Bonanza or Gunsmoke. The second half feels more like John Carpenter's The Thing (used parts of Morricone's original score) and Sam Raimi's The Evil Dead. French New Wave existentialism also gets thrown into the stew.
All the performances are great, but Samuel L. Jackson looms above all. Tarantino taps into Jackson's maniacal side. He's a version of Django, but a psychotic one. Jackson's rage often takes poetic turns, he's a Grim Reaper with flashes of "The Judge" from Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian.
Kurt Russell is gruff and creepy.
Jennifer Jason Leigh spends most of the movie covered in blood.
Bruce Dern is an old confederate general.
Tim Roth an English dandy.
Michael Madsen is shifty.
Walton Goggins is a good old boy with a dark streak.
They are a jury of the damned.
Many critics have complained Tarantino's "adolescent" movies are getting tiresome. I agree up to a point, The Hateful Eight feels slightly derivative of his previous work.
Perhaps The Hateful Eight is Tarantino's ode to Kubrick's The Shining. As many have pointed out, the violence and past genocide of Western Civilization is in the subtext of The Shining, only Tarantino removes the subtext. History is ugly. Investigate at your own risk.