Film scores

Soundtrack review: The hateful eight (Ennio Morricone – 2015)

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At first when I heard that Ennio Morricone was finally going to write an original score for a Quentin Tarantino movie I couldn’t believe it. QT had been using the mastero’s masterpieces for his movies for two decades but he had never commissioned a full original score. Until now. It is a dream come true. And when the movie in question is also a Western the stars seem to be fully aligned. “The Hateful Eight” is a 2015 American Western film written and directed by Quentin Tarantino, and stars Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Walton Goggins, Demián Bichir, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen and Bruce Dern. The film is set some years after the Civil War in Wyoming, and revolves around eight strangers who seek refuge in a stagecoach stopover on a mountain pass during a blizzard. The movie seems to be a best of gala for Tarantino since he brought all his fetish actors around. I can’t wait to see it. There’s been a bit of controversy around the score as about 25 minutes of it was actually written for John Carpenter’s “The thing” 30 years ago but never released. Regardless, after hearing Morricone’s previous score “En mai, fait ce qu’il te plait” written this year my hopes are very high. At first glance the album also contains dialogue and for a Tarantino movie this is something that hits the spot. I also like that the titles of the cues are in Italian.

And there come the first notes for a Western written by Morricone in 40 years. They are dark, they sound a little sharper than they used to but boy do I recognize the Ennio sound; the beauty of it is that the opening theme “L’ultima dirigenza di Red Rock” also mixes a little of the Morricone suspense percussion. In fact this entire theme sounds as if taken from one of his noir police thrillers rather than a full blooded Western movie. Regardless this massive opening is classic Morricone and I can’t believe it’s new. This theme alone would be enough because towards the end it also brings the sarcastic tone I would expect from a Tarantino film and also the vocal cries that bring the Western wind.

The sneaky Pink Panther like musical tip toe dominates the start of the score. I identify a theme which is starting to recur. Morricone doesn’t let the music dwell in the same territory for long though and agitates the waters. A furious string motif here, a few question marks made of piano key strokes and we have variety.

Morricone’s Western sound has two main parts for me: the spectacular riding themes, inspirational and loud and the parts that played over the darker moments when it was more about sneaking around and hiding rather than riding and fighting. “The hateful 8” comes from those shadows and raises a menacing hand which I as a listener see too late.

Just as the cowboys of those times sometimes ran into a huge obstacle so I find myself facing a mountain of a cue. “Neve (versione integrale)” is 12 minutes long and I can’t remember another Morricone theme like it, except for suites. It’s a thick and dense cue designed like the deceiving quicksand in which the more you move the more you get sucked in. I get lost in the repetitive tones of this piece but the sound is addictive and I am kept on my toes. The music never loses me.

As the score got towards the end I had only one regret: that I didn’t get the shot of nostalgia I usually get from a Morricone score. I should have waited for the final cue, because “La lettera di Lincoln” gave me everything my nostalgic self needed…

If you were looking for a spectacular and fiery Western return from Morricone you will be surprised. This is a dark, tense and aggressive composition that makes me think there might actually be no humor in “The hateful 8”. There are a few moments when the flute play makes me think of romance but that’s about the only time the cloud blanket is broken. I love a dark score and this one hit the spot. The maestro continues to surprise even at 86.

Cue rating: 95 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 41 / 49

Album excellence: 82%

Highlights:

L’ultima Diligenza Di Red Rock (Versione Integrale)

Overture

Narratore Letterario

L’ultima Diligenza Di Red Rock, No. 2

Neve (Versione Integrale)

Sangue E Neve

L’inferno Bianco (Ottoni)

Neve, No. 3

La Lettera Di Lincoln (Strumentale)

 

About the author

Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

4 Comments

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  • I truely believe that Ennio Morricone’s score for “The Hateful Eight” is not the score that deserved to be prized with an Oscar. Ennio has had better compositions, nominated by the past, that did not receive that award. I guess that he has received this one because it was time to give him that prize.

  • I really like this score. When I heard it was more in ared. Morricone’s giallo/cop mode I was prep for something unLeonesque but U wad not prepated for what he did write. I love the first two cUes on the CD. Sadly, very little of the CD score is used in the film. The tone of the score could also be a companion piece to Morricone’s THE THING. In fact my favorite cur from THE THING did make an appearance in HATEFUL, though there was unused cues from HATEFUL that could’ve been used in place of BEASTIALITY. Overall, I can’t stop listening to the first two cues. And the score definitely deserved the Oscar. Bravo!