Ok, we gather a group of the fastest guns in the west. They come from different backgrounds; lawmen and gang members, bounty hunters and hardened criminals, former confederates and black Union soldiers. We strand them together in a cabin and then…have them talk at each other.
While rounding out my Quentin Tarantino education leading up to The Hateful Eight I’ve come to the opinion that he is his own worst enemy. Tarantino’s work shines best when it’s tempered by someone else’s creative input. That could mean a Tarantino script that is directed by someone else or simply a talented editor. Because if no one can tell Tarantino “no” then we get the first half of The Hateful Eight.
At nearly three hours in length (with the SHORTER cut) this movie’s first half crawls along “real molasses like.” Tarantino has always loved his dialog, and it IS snappy, but even I can take only so much of it before I’m wishing for the plot to advance. I like to think that I don’t necessarily need whiz bang action all the time but protracted talky scenes wear thin when I feel like there is no substance behind them. Even if a scene is meant to flesh out a character I’m going to start checking my watch if the plot has ground to a halt for too long. When the titular eight players are gathered in the cabin there are obvious points of conflict set up and the tension lies in wondering who is going to set who off first. But so long passes that the tension turns to boredom.
Halfway through the movie, about eighty minutes or so, Samuel L. Jackson starts yelling and things start actually happening. From that point on the movie is good! The characters deal with the twists and turns, reveals change how you perceive the situation, and it all builds to a climax punctuated by Tarantino’s talent for witty repartee and extreme, at times almost cartoonish violence. Unfortunately the first half of the film is a lead weight that drags the experience as a whole down.
The Quick and the Dead this is not. It’s mostly just dead.
Other movies I watched this week (potential minor spoilers):
Cannibal Holocaust II / Green Inferno – This Italian movie is the sequel to a film infamous for convincing audiences that people were actually murdered on screen. That first movie is unconvincing by today’s standards and this one feels even less genuine. The first movie felt a little like a documentary while this movie feels like a production. The English voice actors are atrocious. I can never tell if they’re frightened or amused by the “threatening” situations they find themselves in deep in the jungle. The soundtrack is hilariously 80’s. Everything feels cheap and unpolished. The first movie may be a curiosity in horror movie history, but this movie can stay forgotten.
Cannibal Women of the Avocado Jungle – A spoof of movies about scary jungle tribes, the deep uncharted avocado jungles of southern California are home to a tribe of vicious feminists. The government enlists a female professor of women’s studies to try and communicate with the hostiles. With her are her vapid ditzy female student and an ex-boyfriend misogynist played by Bill Maher. The only character who gets any laughs was the student as her intellect could give Kelly Bundy a run for her money. The jokes don’t land and there is nothing entertaining once you get past the ridiculous setup.
A Haunted House – Marlon Wayans continues in the tradition of Scary Movie with this spoof of the Paranormal Activity movies. Crass and crazy, this movie works better than some of Wayans’s others because rather than basing everything around a single absurd premise like Littleman and White Chicks this film uses its framing story only as a way to move from one skit to another. This allows a series of funny actors to parade through to do what they do best rather than be stuck in one situation that you may not find entertaining. Overall not bad.
A Haunted House 2 – Just as horror movies crank out sequels as long as they make money so too do their spoofs. Again the comedians that show up shine when they’re on screen and even if one scene isn’t working for you the next one will likely be something very different. Special props must be given to the knock down drag out fight against a chicken that is so absurd it had me rolling.