I have been a big fan of Ennio Morricone for a very long time, he is one of my favorite composers ever since I first saw Cinema Paradiso. His talent for melodies and instilling emotions is undeniable. Even if you have never seen a movie scored by Morricone, I am sure you would recognize many of his iconic scores, particularly his western scores such as The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. So when I heard he would score The Hateful Eight I was ecstatic. I was ready to hear another amazing evocative spaghetti western score in the vein of A Fistfull of Dollars or the melodic orchestral beauty of Once Upon a Time in the West. But once Morricone’s overture started playing before the curtains opened and the opening credits began, I realized that the iconic scores for Sergio Leone were not going to be heard for Tarantino’s latest western, instead I heard a score for something else entirely, a score in the vein of one of my favorite films, and I couldn’t have been happier.
As the camera pulled away from a snow covered crucifix, the lilting rhythms from the overture continued with a forceful, ominous mood. There was no whistling, no whip cracks, no electric guitar, no swelling score, just the pulsating synthetic sound of a horror movie. Immediately I thought of John Carpenter’s masterpiece The Thing, the brilliant claustrophobic horror film that had over the top graphic violence and tense situations and ambiguous character motivations. As I heard the organ chords swelling over the closed curtain of Davis Square Theater, a big grin grew on my face because I was trying to predict how this movie would imitate The Thing, how the blizzard will be a character, how no characters could be trusted, how suspense will fill the claustrophobic setting. I was excited and thrilled for the movie I was about to watch thanks to a few simple notes from the maestro himself, Ennio Morricone.
Morricone has the ability to surprise, moving from genre to genre creating sounds that on the surface can be varied, but distinctly Morricone. His score for The Hateful Eight evokes the sounds of Bernard Hermann, his previous score for The Thing, and early Howard Shore. There is a pulsating paranoia and drive in the score for The Hateful Eight and it fits perfectly in Tarantino’s mystery thriller western concoction with characters experiencing personal horrors. It is a great score for an entertaining and thrilling movie. I can not imagine the impact this film would have if Morricone did not score it. Would the films still be good? Probably. Tarantino’s prose and dialogue is sharp as ever, but it may not have been as evoked The Thing or as dangerous a feeling if it weren’t for Morricone and his marvelous score.
I am listening to the film’s score as I write this post and even as I type, I am feeling some goosebumps on my arms and a chill on the back of my neck because the score is that powerful. Music has the ability to conjure deep emotions and thoughts. With the combination of the right film and a great musical score, those feelings and thoughts can be realized in incredible ways. Morricone has that ability and talent to make you feel anything, and his most score for Tarantino’s most recent film lives up to his scores of old and further proves Ennio Morricone’s mastery.