Saturday, September 12

Tales from the Hood (1995)

First words on the back: Welcome to a 'hood of horror.

Directed by Rusty Cundieff
98 Minutes / HBO Home Video / Unmatted Full Frame

"...go watch Tales from the Hood." Just took my own advice after viewing Hood of Horror. This might sound bold, but this film really deserves to placed with the best on-screen anthologies horror has to offer. This has been one of those personal "standards" I enjoy revisiting time-and-time again and certainly proves it's worth even more when watching mediocre Snoop Dogg's 2006 anthology outing.

Writers Scott and Cundieff (whom also directs and plays the teacher in the second story) strike a great balance between the Mr. Simms funeral home wrap-around segments and the four featured stories. The film seems to strive for simplicity as a way to maintain coherence. The set-up for the stories tells itself with the stories following suit. Each are straightforward at their cores and not played for goofball laughs with the black-oriented social lighting rods hung onto them like adornments.

I've read in the past that somehow this film portrays a so-called "reverse" racism towards whites and that's a load of bullshit. Surely the film does tackle weighty issues such as race, especially for a horror flick, and has white bigots, but no one is safe regardless of race. Just look at poor Clarence's fate at the end of the first tale or the unfortunate "accident" that befalls Duke's PR man. Even if the film casted whites as "evil", the film's final story would more than make up for this, but more on that later.

"Death... it comes in many strange packages."

The cast is just awesome. Clarence Williams III gorges himself on the devilish story-telling Mr. Simms in the wrap-around, stealing the show as he nervously stares into space while shouting then whispering his train of thought. You couldn't get better scumbag cops than Wings Hauser (!?!), Duane Whitaker, and Michael Massee. David Alan Grier goes against type as a brutally abusive father/"monster". Corbin Bernsen is dependable as always as an intolerant politician who moves into an ex-plantation homestead inhabited by possessed dolls. An authoritative Rosalind Cash (in her penultimate career role before her death) is pitted against a very convincingly gangland thug-like Lamont Bentley.

While the first three stories are played with more carnival spookshow attitude, the last is the sole reason why this film should exist. The story centers around "Crazy K", a longtime street thug whose gunned down in a firefight with rivals, only to be saved by the cops and end up incarcerated on a murder rap. While there (presumably for life) a counselor by the name of Dr. Cushing (Rosalind Cash) arrives with an offer for rehabilitation at her facility. What follows is an extreme form of shock therapy in which the murderer is forced to face the ugly truth of his life of misdeeds.

The heady messages in this story are blunt and pointed against gang mentality and violence. Way more confrontational than not just anything else in this film, but for the majority of the genre. Easily the best scene is when Crazy K is thrown in an adjacent cell next to a greasy, whacked-out white supremacist who makes the gangbanger realize his targets were also "niggers" and infers he likes members of K's race who commit such acts as it further incites his notion of an upcoming global racial war. Then we're treated to a montage of white-on-black violence from the past and "current" black-on-black gangland shootings (to the tune of Spice 1's Born II Die) as to say this epidemic is merely a replacement. When Crazy K attempts to blame his state on upbringing and "the world", Dr. Cushing screams about personal responsibility for both one's own actions, life, and the lives of others. It's refreshing to see such brutal honesty and the film's horror trappings are the perfect vessel for their sledgehammer delivery.

As I've said before, this is a great, easily digestible horror anthology with very few flaws. If you haven't seen it or seen it in years, track it down. Hell, I'd go as far to say Cundieff's film loosely shakes the hand of the greatness of Romero's Creepshow.

VHS Picture: 7/10
VHS Sound: 6/10


Jeff Allard said...

Thanks for the nice write-up on an underappreciated movie! I've been planning on rewatching this one again myself. I love the tip of the hat the wraparound makes to Amicus and every story is a strong one.

Anthony1138 said...

Picked this up pretty cheap on LD a couple of years back, but I never got around to revisiting it. After reading this great review, I'm adding Tales from the Hood to my Halloween viewing list for next month.

Jayson Kennedy said...

You're lucky! The LD has a director commentary missing from any other release.

Toxaemia said...

"Oh, yes. The Shit!"

Prince's dad was one of my favorite things about this movie. you dare tread upon the staircase?

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