imagesNote: This is a review of the longer, “Roadshow” version of The Hateful Eight.

Quentin Tarantino has finally done it. He’s made a movie that’s too long for its own good. You know there’s a problem when the dialogue of a Tarantino movie gets tiresome and the violence becomes nothing more than decadent and mean-spirited.  Broken into two sections with a 12-minute intermission, The Hateful Eight, fails to engage in its meandering and overlong first half, which ends up impacting its second half in the worst way possible: it diminishes the film’s consequences and punishes the audience with nothing more than repellent, nihilistic cruelty.

OK, so you should know what you are in for with a title like The Hateful Eight. It refers to the film’s eight shady anti-heroes of the “Wild West,” who find themselves trapped in an outpost during a blizzard. All of them harbor essential secrets whose gradual reveal leads to an eventual bloodbath. Like the issues with Martin Scorsese’s infamous Wolf of Wall Street (Wolf of Wall Street’ is one nasty, vulgar film about nasty, vulgar people– for 3 hours!), characters lacking sympathy in such an over-long movie makes for problematic storytelling. The chief problem lies in the editing department, making Sally Menke once again sorely missed. As it was in Tarantino’s previous movie, Django Unchained (Film review: ‘Django Unchained’ celebrates myth and history with humor and horror), his first without Menke, there are problems in tone and pacing and an excess that feels so redundant it becomes dull and condescending.

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The first part of The Hateful Eight is filled with the twisted threat of violence by a group of characters trying to suss each other out while stuck in a snowstorm at Minnie’s Haberdashery, the isolated mountain roadhouse where much of the drama unfolds. John Ruth (Kurt Russell) and Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson), two bounty hunters, bring in Ruth’s captive, Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) to hunker through the storm, finding a group of strangers they don’t trust and no sign of Minnie, who Marquis knows personally. Thus the suspicions begin.

It sounds like a good concept worth its slow burn. However, Tarantino, who also wrote the script, has drawn it out so long, that the dialogue creaks out with what has become a familiar formula of his plays on racism and bigotry that ends up overshadowing the fleshing out of identity. Then there are the tiresome jokes that out wear their novelty, like characters having to constantly nail boards to shut hateful_eight_twc_2.0the haberdashery’s door against the snow. Plot twists aside, there’s little more story than this and little sense that anything crucial is at stake. It’s as if the film were an exercise in bringing eight shifty characters together to see how they would do each other in if they were stuck in close quarters, like a gladiator match with words and guns. It’s almost a cold exercise in story development instead of an actual story. It feels as if Tarantino has taken the extended scene of the basement bar of Inglourious Basterds and stretched it into a feature-length movie with twists that fail to reach the heights of his 2009 film without on of its context.

Before the intermission, almost two hours into the film, the first shot is fired and stakes are finally increased, and by then, you can’t wait for these people to start killing each other in cruel, spectacular ways disguised as humor. Unfortunately, that means you have more than an hour to go, and there’s no more pay off other than the film’s nasty tone, which also features a flashback to some “nice” people drawn out as if they were made of sentimental straw. The second half is all brutality and blood with some good lines here and there, but it all feels so meaningless and malicious, and it is a fundamentally problematic issue with the film.

Because of all the hype about The Hateful Eight being shot on 70mm, it is also worth noting how disappointing the cinemascope widescreen is. It’s nowhere near as grand as expected. The West is castrated by the KurtRussellSamuelLJacksonHatefulEightsnow, and sure, Robert Richardson gets nice wide shots of giant horse-drawn carriages and the expressive faces of some of the actors, but, more often than not, the mise-en-scene is so overwhelming that never honestly engages the audience. Russel, Demian Bichir and James Parks are among those lost in the excess of facial hair symbolic of the obstruction that has blinded Tarantino’s ego to dial it back. The only cinematic quality worth its while is Ennio Morricone’s score, but you’re better of buying the vinyl soundtrack.

In the end, The Hateful Eight’s weakness is its script. Fine, it’s in the title, but not a single one of these characters have redeeming qualities that make up for their bad sides. Pick your scale of bad guy and root for him (or her). Some are racist, throwing around the N-word with aplomb, while others carry a twisted righteousness that permits them to beat a woman at any chance. All are liars to some degree, some more interesting than others. But despite a seeming complexity, there’s something inhuman and mechanical about it all. They boil down to primal caricatures unworthy of audience sympathy. It’s as if Tarantino expects the audience to be interested in hokey representations of people standing in as jokes. What happens when you sacrifice fleshing out a person for the sake of a joke? Well, this film is our prime example, unengaging, mind-numbing and plain tiresome.

Hans Morgenstern

The Hateful Eight is available to watch in two different formats, in two different running times. There’s a 168 minute version in digital at most theaters and 187 minute roadshow version on 70mm. It is rated R. It opens everywhere on Dec. 25. All images are courtesy of The Weinstein Company, who also invited me to a preview screening of the Road Show Version with the overture, intermission and added footage. This review is based on that cut, but it was shown in digital projection.

(Copyright 2015 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)

TALES OF HALLOWEEN POSTERJust in time to warm up South Florida for Halloween, comes the Popcorn Frights Film Festival. It marks the region’s first film festival dedicated to the horror film genre. All movies will be Florida premieres. It will take place from Oct. 1 through Oct. 4, and all screenings are at 11 p.m. and feature shorts, creating a grindhouse kind of experience for every screening. Some films feature big names from the horror genre, from directors like Neil Marshall (The Descent) to actors like Kurt Russell.

The festival was put together by two experts of the film programming scene, Miami Jewish Film Festival executive director Igor Shteyrenberg and Marc Ferman, a local film critic and host of many vintage movie screenings at Popcorn Nights at Miami’s O Cinema. The festival will unfold at O Cinema’s Wynwood location. The line-up, which appropriately kicks off with an omnibus of horror shorts called Tales of Halloween, was announced this morning. We were given permission to share their press release below, which reveals the full line-up, schedule and ticket details with some handy links.

For immediate release Monday, August 10, 2015

SOUTH FLORIDA’S FIRST AND ONLY HORROR FILM FESTIVAL KICKS-OFF THIS OCTOBER
MIAMI, FL – Horror fans will soon rejoice as South Florida’s first and only genre film festival, the Popcorn Frights Film Festival, launches October 1-4, 2015 at the O Cinema Wynwood, premiering four acclaimed and highly anticipated international films, and an additional six shorts. “We’re thrilled to present such an array of cool, twisted, beautiful, mind-bending, horrifying, and hilarious films for our inaugural genre festival,” said Co-Founders & Co-Directors Igor Shteyrenberg & Marc Ferman. “We scoured the globe for the freshest and craziest films to present for our community of film lovers, and this first incredible selection of films just gives a small taste of the fun that will be in store as our Festival grows in future editions.”

The program for the first annual Popcorn Frights Film Festival is a fearsome feast filled with vampires, werewolves, psycho slashers, cannibals, and all the sinister things that go bump in the night. Opening Night will see the Florida Premiere of Tales of Halloween, an anthology film featuring shorts by the likes of Neil Marshall (The Descent), Luck McKee (May), and Darren Lynn Bousman (Saw II), while the closing night highlight will be Bone Tomahawk, starring Kurt Russsell, Matthew Fox, Patrick Wilson, David Arquette, and Sid Haig in a horrific Western about how the west was truly won…against savage cannibals!

Other buzzy entries in the lineup include the Florida Premieres of Howl, An American Werewolf in London-inspired creature feature, and the genre-bending supernatural shocker Diabolical, starring Ali Larter (Final Destination, Heroes). In addition to these feature films, the Festival will also present six award-winning short films as part of its official program, notably “The Night of the Slasher,” a remarkable shot-in-one-take short with nods to the slasher genre’s roots, and the eerie stop motion animated film “The Shutterbug Man,” which features a voice over narration by the queen of horror Barbara Steele.

NIGHT OF THE SLASHER (SHORT FILM)

The Festival’s Opening Night on Thursday, October 1st will kick-off with an under the stars courtyard reception courtesy of Pollo Tropical. The reception will be exclusive to the Festival’s Badge Holders. LOCATION: All films will screen at 11pm at the O Cinema Wynwood (90 NW 29th Street).

TICKET SALES: Festival Premiere Badges are on sale for a limited time for $45, and single screening tickets are available for $12. To purchase badges or tickets and view the Festival schedule, visit www.popcornfrights.com MORE INFORMATION: Follow the Popcorn Frights Film Festival on Facebook (/popcornfrights) or Twitter (@popcornfrights) for updates with the latest information about the Festival. Join the conversation using the hashtag #popcornfrights on social media.

FESTIVAL LINEUP
October 1st
TALES OF HALLOWEEN, Florida Premiere Directed by Darren Lynn Bousman, Axelle Carolyn, Adam Gierasch, Andrew Kasch, Neil Marshall, Lucky McKee, Mike Mendez, Dave Parker, Ryan Schifrin, John Skipp, Paul Solet

US | 92 minutes | 2015

Ten tales of terror unfold in a sleepy suburb on All Hallows Eve as ghouls, imps, aliens, goblins, demons, axe murders, and serial killers roam the witching hour. Join our celebration of all things Halloween with a host of dreaded nightmares directed by the cream of the scream industry crop.

INVADERS, Florida premiere Directed by Jason Kupfer

US | 7 minutes | 2014

It’s Thanksgiving and two would-be robbers are planning a quick heist. But they might get more than they bargained for.

 

October 2nd
THE DIABOLICAL, Florida Premiere Directed by Alistair Legrand

US | 86 minutes | 2015

Ali Larter (Final Destination, Heroes) stars in this genre-bending supernatural shocker as a single mother trying to protect her two young children from an increasingly strange and intense presence tormenting their quiet suburban home. Seeking help from her boyfriend, they embark on a hunt to destroy the violent spirit.

THE SHUTTERBUG MAN, Florida Premiere Directed by Chris Walsh

Canada | 5 minutes | 2014

An all-out stop motion horror short that’s heavy on shadows and atmosphere and narrated by the queen of horror Barbara Steele.

HUSH, Florida Premiere Directed by Michael Kehoe

US | 6 minutes | 2015
A young college graduate babysits an 8 year old girl during a terrible storm, only to realize their house is possessed by a malevolent entity.

HOWL STILL

October 3rd
HOWL, Florida Premiere Directed by Paul Hyett

UK | 95 minutes | 2015

Make-up effects master Paul Hyett (Dog Soldiers, The Descent) creates a lycanthropic horror tale about a group of passengers on a midnight train who find themselves under attack by a terrifying pack of werewolves. As his effects background might imply, Hyett completely eschews CGI beasts and takes a more American Werewolf-inspired practical approach that is unlike anything the silver screen has seen before.

BAD GUY #2, Florida Premiere Directed by Chris McInroy

US | 10 minutes | 2014 This outrageously gory comedy follows a struggling hitman whose upward mobility lands him at the dreaded position of Bad Guy #2 – a prominent but ultimately expendable character in the bad guy pantheon – leaving him no choice but to up his game or die violently at the hands of his emotionally erratic boss. NIGHT OF THE SLASHER, Florida Premiere Directed by Shant Hamassian US | 12 minutes | 2015 Every slasher has rules for selecting his prey. But tonight’s prey might have the upper hand.

October 4thBONE TOMAHAWK POSTER
BONE TOMAHAWK, Florida Premiere Directed by S. Craig Zahler

US | 95 minutes | 2015 Kurt Russell stars in this character driven and horrific Western about a group of men (including Patrick Wilson, Matthew Fox, and Richard Jenkins) who set out to rescue a local woman and a young deputy who have been kidnapped by a tribe of cannibalistic troglodytes. This is a men-on-a-mission Western full of all the genre staples we love, but with the added joys of brutal horror such that, by the end of the film, you will understand how the west was truly won…against savage cannibals!

CROW HAND!!!, Florida Premiere Directed by Brian Lonano US | 3 minutes | 2014 The title says it all!

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ABOUT POPCORN FRIGHTS FILM FESTIVAL

Popcorn Frights Film Festival presents the very best genre films from across the world as it celebrates the art of horror. As the first and only horror/genre festival in South Florida, its mission is to premiere films from emerging and established filmmakers enabling the industry and general audiences to experience the power of storytelling through genre film. The inaugural Popcorn Frights Film Festival will occur October 1-4, 2015.

Hans Morgenstern

(Copyright 2015 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)