THROWBACK THURSDAY: THE H8FUL EIGHT
Dubious, digit-inclusive title notwithstanding (don’t we usually reserve those for Fast & Furious-er?), Tarantino’s eighth directorial effort, The H8ful Eight, is a slow-burn, barking mad post Civil War whodunit. It’s a brash showcase for the auteur’s returning repertory players and a raw illustration of the man’s urgent engagement with the contemporary American political environment.
Said cast boasts returning QT irregulars in Sam Jackson, Kurt Russell, Michael Madsen, Tim Roth and so on, and elicits a wildcat turn from Jennifer Jason Leigh as Daisy Domergue — a feral no-gooder en route to a date with the noose in the town of Red Rock.
Shit, as it is wont to do, goes awry. Waylaid by a blizzard, Daisy, her captor, Russell’s John ‘The Hangman’ Ruth, Jackson’s Major Marquis Warren and their carriage driver, O.B. (James Parks) find themselves holed up in a roadhouse known as Millie’s Haberdashery, where, it quickly becomes apparent, something untoward is definitely afoot.
To delve further would do a disservice to Tarantino’s exquisitely engineered plot; a marvel of taut, excruciating suspense designed to confound audience expectations and leave you sweating and writhing in your seat, breath held, heart palpitating.
Tarantino, ever the magpie, nods as much to your Argentos or Fulcis (or even Raimis — trust me on this one) as he does Ford, Leone or, indeed, Carpenter (it’s de rigueur by now to namecheck The Thing homage, isn’t it?). Only when all of the director’s pieces are finally in place do you appreciate the mastery of the choices on display in The H8ful Eight.
Sure, there are the expected stylistic quirks and inverted genre tropes, but here Tarantino embraces and exploits the artifice of the traditional experience to inform and enhance the audience’s experience.
The H8ful Eight is an enraged excoriation of American exceptionalism and the lurid myths that fuel its institutionalised lunacy to this day — and show no signs of abating.
See it in 70mm Ultra Panavision and immerse yourself in what may very be the enfant terrible’s most polarising, confronting work yet.