I remember the first time I saw Kill Bill Vol. 2 in the theater in 2004. I remember it vividly because it contained one of the scariest scenes I had ever seen. I physically reacted to the scene in which Budd (Michael Madsen) buries The Bride (Uma Thurman) alive. But that scene was scary for me not just because of what was happening but also because of how director Quentin Tarantino shot the scene:
From The Bride’s point-of-view, as she lays tied up in Budd’s truck bed, we see Budd and his hired hand digging up a grave, obscured in darkness. An open coffin, with a rotted corpse tumbling out of it, lies next to them. This point-of-view shot is an extended take (it lasts maybe a minute), and it’s a long shot (the perspective is from several yards away). The camera never cuts or provides close-up’s as it might do in a standard horror movie that usually shows every last horrible thing that’s happening in minute detail from all angles. This POV shot provides a deepening of identification with The Bride character as well as a sense of dread, helplessness, and uncertainty; we think we know what’s coming. But do we really know for certain and can we control it?
This shot reminds me of another repeated shot, which also creeped me out. In Roman Polanski’s The Tenant, Trelkovsky, played by Polanski, sees strange human figures, including one that resembles himself, staring back at him from the bathroom window across the apartment courtyard.
The next Kill Bill Vol. 2 scene then shows The Bride in a wooden box (it’s a close-up profile shot of her that will not cut away for awhile). Budd is hammering the box’s lid shut. He has given her a flashlight, which she accidentally drops, and then the screen goes dark for a pretty long time. At this point, we only hear what’s going on: Budd and his helper lower the box containing The Bride into the ground. They shovel dirt one clump at a time onto the box, and drive off. The Bride is now alone except for the flashlight, which she eventually finds and turns on. In addition to the lack of visuals for an extended period, the other remarkable aspect of this scene is that, like the wedding chapel massacre scene (from Kill Bill Vols. 1 and 2) and the Japanese massacre scene (from Kill Bill Vol. 1), it’s black and white. Why? Does the use of black and white tie these scenes together? What do these scenes have in common? They are all “iconic” scenes narratively and stylistically, as well as character-defining moments for The Bride in both films. They also play up the stylization of Tarantino’s homage to genre films and showcase the beauty of black and white. However, while emphasizing the stylization of Tarantino’s use of violence, the use of black and white also paradoxically dilutes the gratuitous amounts of blood and violence.