Tales from the Hood
Director: Rusty Cundieff
Stars: Clarence Williams III, Corbin Bernsen, Joe Torry
Reviewed by Brian M. Sammons
I love horror anthologies. As I’ve always said, they’re like all you can eat buffets: even if you don’t like something it has to offer, you’re bound to find something that you do. And for the most part, with only very few exceptions, that holds true. But what about this blast from the mid-90s past? I mean, this is a “black horror movie” and as a non-African American, is there anything here for me? Will I get it? Hmmm, isn’t that like asking if non-white non-suburban kids will get Halloween, or the more recent It Follows? Were non-Asians able to relate to Ringu or Ju-on: The Grudge? Hmmm, it seems Hollywood doesn’t think so, since both of those got the Americanized remake treatment, but you get what I’m saying. At least I hope you do. So this collection of creepy stories looks at things through the lens of the African-American experience, but is there enough here for people outside of that group to like? Well, let’s find out.
Three gang-banging thugs go to a funeral home in the middle of the night to complete a drug deal. They meet with Clarence Williams III, perhaps still best known for the 60s TV show The Mod Squad, who is wonderfully over-the-top insane as the undertaker who will act as Crypt Keeper narrator and framing device for the four short stories that follow.
The first is the most uninspired and 70s-blacksploitation-like (i.e., all cops are crooked bastards). Here a young, black, rookie cop witnesses three of his white brothers in blue doing something very wrong, and chooses not to act on it. Sometime later, our hero has left the force and is still haunted, literally, by what he failed to stop. A typical revenge-from-beyond-the-grave story then unfolds, but there are some decent gore gags to dress it up some.
The next story is the most predictable, as a young boy starts showing up to school with unaccountable bruises on his body. When the concerned teacher asks the student what’s going on, he says that it’s the monster that came into his home after his father died. Yeah, if you don’t see exactly where this one is going from the start, you must be asleep. Again, some nifty special effects at the end does save this segment from being completely forgettable.
The third story is easily the best. Here a former Kul Klux Klan man turned politician named Duke (ha, see what they did there?) moves into a southern plantation house with a dark past. Corbin Bernsen is delightfully despicable as the racist D-bag who gets what’s coming to him thanks to some old black magic and a whole bunch of…well you’ll have to watch it to find out. Shades of Trilogy of Terror can be found here, and that’s not a bad thing with me.
The last story is a solid bit of social commentary where a young black gangsta has to face the hard truth that he has more in common with the aforementioned Klan than he ever thought. Sadly, the big twist they were going for with this one just doesn’t work. But it does lead us to the end of the movie and a reveal right out of Amicus’ 1973 The Vault of Horror. That’s also a good thing in my book.
Let’s get to the extras on this new Blu-ray from Scream Factory. There is an audio commentary with co-writer/director Rusty Cundieff. There is also a new Making of featurette that runs 56 minutes. There is also a vintage featurette about the movie that’s six minutes long. A trailer, some TV spots, and a photo gallery can also be found here.
Tales from the Hood is an uneven anthology, but as I said at the start of this review, just like a buffet, there are some good things here that made me happy. Both Clarence Williams III and Corbin Bernsen have a lot of fun here and their segments are easily the best. There are some good bloody effects and that always make me smile. While some segments come off as uninspired, nothing here is really bad; the direction is competent, and the acting is good by all, with another notable tip of the hat going to David Alan Grier for playing against type. So if you are a horror anthology fan like me, consider this one recommended.
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