By EW Staff
Updated May 06, 2015 at 12:00 PM EDT

Somebody’s dying today—you can hear it in Samuel L. Jackson’s voice. On a soundstage in Hollywood this April, the actor who plays Major Marquis Warren in Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight is swirling up a tornado of a monologue—one, it’s safe to say, that contains great vengeance and furious anger—and preparing to deliver his hapless victim a new pair of breathing holes courtesy of Mr. Samuel Colt. Squibs are packed and ready to spew twin gooey bursts of fake blood all over the cozy rustic interior of Minnie’s Haberdashery.

You can be sure this won’t be the only time someone comes down with an acute case of lead poisoning in Tarantino’s bloody new production, which traps eight of the West’s nastiest gunslingers in a snowbound frontier way station, each wrapped in as many layers of deceit as they are clothing. The film scales down from Tarantino’s last two films, the revisionist revenge epics Inglourious Basterds and Django Unchained, going for something more intimate if no less violent, like a stick of dynamite in a shoebox. “For me it has more of a Western Iceman Cometh kind of vibe about it,” says Tarantino. The film also takes a belt from the bottle of the director’s first film Reservoir Dogs. “A bunch of guys in a room who can’t trust each other,” he says. “That wasn’t a marching order when I sat down to write the script, but pretty quickly I realized this is kind of a nice coming-full-circle.”

The cast is a Who’s Who of the Tarantino-verse, including Jackson, Kurt Russell, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Bruce Dern, Walton Goggins, as well as newbies Demián Bichir and Jennifer Jason Leigh. “I knew Quentin, but I had never had a chance to work with him, and I really wanted to,” recalls Leigh. The film, which hits theaters later this year, almost never happened. After a script leak last January shot the horse out from under the project, Tarantino injuredly announced he was shelving the film, but some time and a successful live script read later that year thankfully convinced him to renege.

This week’s EW cover story brings you a first look at the highly anticipated new western, as well as a behind-the-scenes with Tarantino and his formidable cast. So down that shot of two-bit rotgut, holster your six-shooter, and pick yourself up a copy. You’ll be more grateful than hateful.

For more on The Hateful Eight, pick up this week’s copy of Entertainment Weekly, on stands Friday.