Tales from the Hood is an horror anthology from 1995 with an so-called urban twist to it. This is a collection of short stories that will remind you of the old Amicus anthologies like Tales from the Crypt, Asylum and The Vault of Horror. The stories here revolve around topics such as racism, police brutality and gang violence, all while having a focus on delivering a love letter to the 60’s and 70’s anthology films that the filmmakers obviously was very familiar with before entering this project.
Tales from the Hood has four short stories with a wraparound story making sense of them all and bringing them all together. The wraparound is called Welcome to My Mortuary and sees a group of gangsters arrive at a funeral home to purchase a new supply of drugs that they are going to flip on the streets. They are greeted by a crazy looking fella named Mr. Simms, and while they are going through the funeral home he is telling them morbid tales related to some of the dead bodies that are laying around in coffins.
The first story he tells them are called Rogue Cop Revelation. This story is about police brutality. A new black cop named Clarence Smith witnesses three fellow policemen beating up and eventually killing a black politician and neither Clarence or the dead soul of the politican will be able to rest until revenge has been served. This is my least favorite story of the film. The social commentary here on police brutality gets a bit in the way of telling a fun story, although there is no denying that the topic in hand is very important and sadly just as relevant in 2016 as it was twenty years ago.
The story does have the awesome Wing Hauser show up as a racist cop though so it’s not like it is all bad, and to be fair, the other actors in this one also do a good job with their parts. In the end though, it just doesn’t really work for me. The second story however, Boys Do Get Bruised, is a step up and a fun segment, even if it deals with a terrible topic of child abuse. A young and sensitive boy named Walter has transfered to a new school and when he shows up with a black eye, his teacher starts to give him some attention to try to lure out who is abusing him.
Walter keeps telling him that there is a monster behind his abuse, and the teacher will eventually find out that Walter might actually be telling the truth all along. This story deals with a more universal theme and it is told from the perspective of Walter. It’s a solid segment that has a fun twist to it in the end. The most awesome part of this story is that actor David Alan Grier, mostly known for his work on more comedic films, gets to go apeshit in his part. The teacher is actually played by the director of the film Rusty Cundieff.
The ending is very Tales from the Crypt-ish and both fun to watch but also sad as this isn’t an ending for most children experiencing abuse. The third story is called KKK Comeuppance and it is the most fun segment of this anthology. This story takes place in a former slave plantation where the racist and former Ku Klux Klan member Duke Metger has setup office for his senator campaign. This of course upsets the local black community, but it is not them but rather the past of the place that will demand payback from Metger.
This one is without a doubt my favorite story of the bunch. Every anthology film needs a segment with a killer doll and this one delivers the goods and then some. Corbin Bernsen, who would show up in the very fun and underrated The Dentist only a year later, plays the douchebag senator and he is always a joy to watch. The puppetry is excellent and has a very Puppet Master feel to how it is done.
The effects are perhaps a bit dated, but for me this type of thing will always work and I love this segment. The final one sees a very big change in tone from the previous two. Hardcore Convert is about a ruthless gangster nicknamed Crazy K, who is responsible for a bunch of deaths in the streets of Los Angeles. His past creeps up on him one day when he gets arrested and put into a special hidden government rehabilitation program.
Hardcore Convert is the darkest and most grim out of the stories as it explores the black on black violence in a new and interesting way. It feels a bit influenced by A Clockwork Orange, not that that’s a bad thing, and although the story feels a bit preachy, it is still very solid. The end of it however feels a bit rushed and I get the feeling that they weren’t all that sure on how to wrap it up. That being said, this is an excellent segment and a nice way to end the storytelling and return to the Funeral Home for the wrapup of the wraparound story.
The end of the wraparound and the entire movie is quite cool, which is a bit unusual as I rarely think that wraparound stories are done that well in anthology films – see the VHS movies and you’ll know what I mean. Here it goes over the top and crazy and it worked quite well for my taste. Tales from the Hood is, from my knowledge at least, an unique type of horror anthology film and I am a bit surprised that I rarely hear it being mentioned at all. From what I understand, the film is only available on the region 1 DVD from HBO, unless you, like me, don’t mind the good old VHS format.
According to the director himself, it is unlikely that this film will see a new release anytime soon as there are no prints currently available. Which is a shame as this is a film that deals with topics that are just as relevant today as it was twenty years ago. This film was the creation of screenwriter Darin Scott and writer director Rusty Cundieff. Cundieff also directed the funny 1993 comedy Fear of a Black Hat and was also involved with the now classic Chappelle’s Show.
They also had help from Spike Lee as he was the executive producer on this project and probably did his part in getting this made. It is obvious that they all wanted to say something with this movie, while still respecting and appreciating the genre they were working within. The movie also has an awesome soundtrack, which actually sold enough copies to get a Gold certification. There are plenty of rap legends on it, including Ol’ Dirty Bastard, Gravediggaz, MC Eiht and it also has perhaps my favorite Spice 1 song ever with Born 2 Die. If you’re a fan of 90’s gangsta rap then this album is definitely something for you.
Tales from the Hood is an underrated anthology film that I am surprised that I haven’t seen before or heard more praise of. It deserves more recognition and even if the out of print DVD goes for a high price these days, it is still worth paying up for. I had a great time with it and will probably revisit it again in the future.
Tales from the Hood gets a solid 3.5 out of 5. We all love anthology films, so instead of asking which you like the most I rather want to hear which anthologies do you feel are underrated and should get more praise than it currently does? Any recommendations would be highly appreciated.