Tales from the Hood I & II – Blu-Ray Review

Tales From the Hood is a horror anthology film that was inspired by Tales From the Crypt, as the name suggests. However, it has no legal connection to it. In fact, it came out the same year as Tales From the Crypt: Demon Knight, which is also a very good Black horror movie. Hood was written and directed by Rusty Cundieff, with Darin Scott credited as co-writer/producer.

The first film didn’t do very well commercially, but it became kind of a hit on VHS and cable, and HBO Home Video released a DVD version back in 1998. It gained a cult following—there haven’t been very many Black horror movies, so it definitely had a niche appeal. Cundieff and Scott also got some backing from Spike Lee, who was the executive producer on the project.

Basically, it’s various stories set mostly in South Central L.A. They’re all pretty clever stories. There’s a wraparound in which these two young gangbangers go to a funeral home where the mortician, played by Clarence Williams III, is like the “cryptkeeper” and tells them all the stories. They’re all pretty good tales, which is rare for anthology films. The wraparound story is also really solid, which helps. The stories deal with serious issues like police corruption, gang violence, institutional racism, domestic violence and the supply of drugs to Black communities, all with a supernatural twist.

The actors are really good, and although I’m sure I have seen several in other stuff, I don’t recognise many of them. There are some funny and very unsubtle names: the former KKK man running for office in the South is called Duke Medgar, for example. So it’s intelligent stories with something to say, they’re funny as there’s some good satire thrown in, and the issues are scary too, of course. Williams is having a ball. Sadly, he did not return to the sequel, because allegedly he has completely retired from acting. That is a shame, because he definitely added a lot to the first film.

The sequel, which Scott and Cundieff co-directed (from what I gather, they basically co-directed the first as well, but couldn’t share a credit because of DGA rules), is not half as good. It’s a little too on-the-nose, and just not as well-written. For instance, the guy called Dumass Beach is a prison operator who is constructing an army of robot cops called “RoboPatriots.” He gets this mysterious Black storyteller Mr. Sims, played by Keith David, to fill them up with stories about who is a criminal and who isn’t, so they can be better robot cops—but Mr Sims obviously has ulterior motives…

The stories in Tales From the Hood 2 are generally not as good as those in the first film, although the first story, “Good Golly,” is an exception. A white girl and her Black friend go to visit a “Museum of Negrosity”—you can imagine the displays. She tries to buy a gollywog doll from the curator, and he’s pretty offended by the fact that she wants to buy this racist display. They decide to go back later to steal it—but the gollywog may have a life of its own… Other than that one, the stories are fairly forgettable, while the episodes in the first one were not. The robot cop wraparound is just rather lazy—why do that when RoboCop itself was a satire?

Keith David chews the hell out of the scenery, though, and is clearly having fun. He’s a great character actor, although this isn’t one of his finest roles.

The second film was shot digitally and made on a smaller budget, and probably put together faster. An edit for length would have helped, but they probably wanted to follow the same five-story format as the first one—which is already more stories than the typical anthology film includes. But since you get both in the same package, and it’s watchable, so it’s worth seeing, even if it’s a real disappointment after the first film.

Incidentally, there is a third Tales From the Hood that came out in the states in 2020, where Candyman himself, Tony Todd, is the “cryptkeeper.” It would be nice to have had all three of them in a set.

The set includes a lot of extras: Disc 1 features a commentary with Cundieff on the first film; a making-of from 2007 that’s been ported over from the Scream Factory release, which comes in at just under an hour; and the trailer. Disc 2 has an interview with Scoot that’s under 20 minutes, a much longer interview with Cundieff (nearly 70 minutes), and a booklet with an essay by Adam Murray, who also conducts the interview with Cundieff.

★★★★

Ian Schultz

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