Today, December 30th, with just two days left in 2015, I saw the worst movie of the year. I don't usually do Worst Movies of the Year lists, but if I did, I would put The Hateful Eight at the top. And, not just for this year, but as the worst movie of the first fifteen years of the 21st Century. With a high degree of confidence that its status will be unshaken during this century's remaining 85 years.
It is a misogynistic, racist, misanthropic, rather disgusting, unlikeable movie. The latest product of an increasingly bizarre, though well funded, racially perverse imagination. An imagination that once made interesting, unique movies, filled with odd, though compelling dialogue, fun homages to older films, and fresh takes on Alex and his droog-ish ultra vi.
Now, that imagination seems demented, woman hating, eerie in its emphasis on racial violence, and one that revels not just in violence, but in ISIS quality cruelty.
An utterly self indulgent ego-pic with no one telling, whoever Tarantino is becoming (I'm thinking the moth metaphor from Silence of the Lambs), that spending millions to imitate a Ben Hur style Hollywood 'roadshow', only works when you've made a Ben Hur quality movie. All the programs, musical preludes, intermissions, and using 70mm, don't make a claustrophobic, closed room, murder mystery How the West Was Won.
In essence, in Hate8, when a bounty hunter meets a bounty hunter coming through the snow, outrunning a blizzard and, one supposes, a plot, the graphic punching of a helpless woman in the face with NBA shot clock regularity, and using the 'N' word while playing Clue in a cabin improves your odds of being the worst movie of the century immeasurably. To ask an audience to maintain wakefulness as characters are introduced again and again with 'I know you', 'You know me' let's allude to a secret past, is asking a bit much, given the lack of a single compelling character. Something might be said for the Ennio Morricone score, but it's quickly obvious that the Director prefers the sound effect of a bearded man punching a handcuffed woman, with her grunts and gasps of pain more than any Morricone musical magic.
It's three hours of endless, moronic, high school level dialogue, flitting here and there and everywhere to introduce the desperadoes, allude to hidden truths, create fantastical backstories, and sow the seeds for race hate, all in 70mm, creating as much suspense as the suspense created within the movie as to whether the Director was going to film one more scene of the front door being nailed shut again, and again, and, yes again.
There are odd asides that highlight an outhouse, stew recipes, favorite chairs, and Abe Lincoln. There are inexplicable scenes of letters read and reread, paperwork verifications surrounding bounties, warrants, affidavits, and permissions to hang someone, which suggest that the Old West was as bureaucratic the county DMV. For some, perhaps playing three hours of Quentin Cabin Clue with The Prisoner, The Bounty Hunter, The Cowboy, The Hangman, The Mexican, The Sherriff, the Confederate, and The Stagecoach Driver might be just the thing. But, alas, in Hateful Eight there is but one room, weapons aplenty, but no rules other than the Director's whims, and, without rules, there is only movie anarchy.
Which brings us to the racial animus that drives much of the movie and is driven by Tarantino's last two movies' avatar: Samuel L. Jackson. An avatar which allows QT to use the 'N' word with impunity and without responsibility. He is the vessel for QT's bizarre views on the justified black on white violence that he revels in.
Perhaps, I shouldn't be surprised at the Director's increasing preoccupation with race hate and violence given that he grew up a slave in Mississippi, experienced the Civil War, Reconstruction, Jim Crow, and everyday racism his entire life.
Oh, wait; QT is a middle class white kid from LA?
As in Django, Tarantino uses Jackson to spew his repugnant fantasies on race in America, riffing violent episodes to justify revenge violence. And, he ups the black on white cruelty to include the gratuitous torture and oral rape of a naked young white man, by Samuel L. The tortured and raped man, is the son of The Confederate (played by the great Bruce Dern), one of the characters trapped in the cabin by the blizzard (and, in Hate8 by an agent who didn't read the script).
Between serving as QT's Django, and now his Hate8 stand in, having to 'N' it up frequently and gratuitously, one wonders what Samuel L. Jackson, a fine actor, thinks about it all?
The actress playing the McGuffin of this movie, Jennifer Jason Leigh, seems to exist to allow the Director to work out his obvious misogyny. She is punched, elbowed, thrown up upon, degraded, and continuously called a bitch or a whore. Beginning the movie with a black eye, she has her nose broken by an elbow, has blood and brains splattered on her face for most of the movie, is continuously threatened with beatings and death, and loses her front teeth by means of a vicious punch lovingly filmed and sound effected...if the same had been depicted happening to a horse, the movie makers would be picketed by the ASPCA.
I can't believe that Tarantino's support of progressive causes, and recent vitriolic statements about New York City's policemen and women have allowed him, in reviews, to skate on the grotesque misogyny of The Hateful Eight.
Misogyny, gleeful racial violence, an incoherent plot, inexplicable plot holes, rape, all in 70mm, and with a dandy little program to read during intermission...
What's not to like?
God, this was an awful movie. No one in the theater seemed to enjoy it, or even like it...at best they endured it. There was no word of mouth leaving the theater, everyone was silent. No texting to friends about The Hateful Eight, cell phones remained in pockets. We walked out into the cold night, glad that we did not have to bear the burden of seeing the worst movie of the year for more than 48 hours. 2016 beckoned. Tomorrow would be another day.
Not realizing, that in its timeless worst-ness, The Hateful Eight's place in history could be a burden borne for the next eighty-five years.