Tales From The Hood
Horror anthologies are great for many reasons. You get multiple stories in one film. If you don't like one, you have others to look forward to. Don't want a vampire story? Well, wait a few minutes and you'll get a zombie story. Anthologies give short stories a chance to reach a wider audience as well. How many times have you seen a horror movie stretched out over an hour and a half when a 20 minute short would have sufficed? They get to the point because they have to, cutting out all of the filler and going straight to the killer.
Tales From The Hood is a 1995 urban-themed horror anthology written and directed by Rusty Cundieff (Fear Of A Black Hat, Chapelle's Show) and executive produced by Spike Lee (Do The Right Thing, Crooklyn). Broken down into four stories, the movie begins with a trio of drug dealers, Stack, Ball, and Bulldog going to Simms's Funeral Home in South Central Los Angeles. The group is at the funeral home to purchase “found” drugs from the strange funeral home director, Mr. Simms (Clarence Williams III, The Mod Squad, Half-Baked). Before getting down to business, Mr. Simms takes the men through his funeral home, telling them stories of his four recent “customers”.
You won't see any worse at your local bus stop
Rogue Cop Revelation
The first story is a tale of racism, police brutality, and responsibility. On his first night on the job, police officer Clarence Smith (Anthony Griffith, Panther, Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle)
witness three white police officers beating on a black man. The man turns out to be famed civil rights activist Martin Moorehouse (Tom Wright, Marked For Death, Barbershop). Moorehouse has been crusaded against police corruption and the three cops are taking their revenge out on him for exposing them. Clarence stops them and is placated when they promise to take Moorehouse to the hospital. After he leaves, the inject Moorehouse with heroin and send his car off the docks, killing him. A year later, Clarence has quit the force and his life has fallen to pieces due to alcohol and the guilt of not saving Moorehouse. He sees a mural of Moorehouse and hears his voice, commanding “Bring them to me!”. Clarence gathers the guilty police men at Moorehouse's grave. As one begins to urinate on the grave, a hand reaches up from the ground and grabs him. Martin Moorehouse has risen from the grave to gain revenge on those who wronged him. Will Moorehouse be able to rest easy or has Clarence not done enough to placate the vengeful spirit?
Traffic in LA keeps getting worse and worse
It's important to remember that Tales From The Hood came out in 1995, not too long after the LA riots. The high-profile case involving Rodney King was still fresh in people's minds around this time. There are still many cases of police brutality and racism, but this case was huge. Rogue Cop Revelation's story is simple and straight to the point. The motivations are all believable and the social commentary is strong while not being too heavy-handed. There is a good amount of violence and some fun and creative kills. The issue of morality and responsibility is also brought up, though it should have been explored a little bit more. Some more inner toil for Clarence would have given his character a bit more depth. The effects look decent, though certain scenes, like flying syringe's, look amateurish. While this story doesn't break any new ground, it's still a fun revenge story with some great violence
Boys Do Get Bruised
The second story follows Walter (Brandon Hammond, Space Jam, The Fan), a young boy with a secret living in his home. His teacher, Mr. Richard Garvy (Rusty Cundieff) notices that Walter has bruises on his face and asks Walter how he got them. Walter just says that “the monster” did it. One day, Mr. Garvy sees Walter drawing pictures of a monster instead of playing outside. Walter explains that if you draw pictures of the things that scare you and then crumple them up or burn them, the monsters will go away. When Mr. Garvy leaves, Walter crumples up a picture of a boy named Tyrone who was bullying him. At the same time, Tyrone falls down the stairs, breaking both arms and legs. Mr. Garvy goes to Walter's house to speak with his mother Sissy, but she refuses to talk about any sort of monster. As he is leaving, Mr. Garvy meets Sissy's boyfriend Carl (David Alan Grier, In Living Color, Blankman). Thinking that Walter has told on him about being a monster, Carl starts beating on both Walter and Sissy, yelling in a monstrous voice. Mr. Garvy tries to stop him, but is overpowered. How will they be able to stop this monster?
He's not a monster. He's just Republican.
This story is probably has the least amount of traditional horror in comparison to the other stories, but that doesn't diminish it's impact. Like Rogue Cop Revelation, the events in Boys Do Get Bruised are very much based on real life issues, which helps lead credence to the story. I'm not entirely sure if Carl is actually a monster or not. Sure, it's hinted at with his scary voice and clawed hand, but conceivably that could have just been Walter's imagination. I would have liked a little more definitive evidence of Carl being a monster. It doesn't change the story, since he is a monster regardless of his looks or origin, but it would have made the story more horror-centric. I really liked David Alan Grier in this story as it was nice to see him in a non-comedic role. Much like Stephen Colbert in his episode of Law & Order, seeing David Alan Grier as a bad guy is quite surprising. Boys Do Get Bruised is a decent story with a good ending, but it does lack in the horror department.
The third story follows southerner Duke Metger (Corbin Bernsen, Major League, The Dentist), a former Ku Klux Klan member in the midst of his senatorial campaign. Duke has moved into an old Southern plantation that had a history of violence towards slave. There is a story about the plantation about an old voodoo woman who placed the souls of murdered slaves into little dolls that are supposedly hidden in the house. Duke's assistant is running through campaign talking points when he accidentally falls down the stairs and dies. Duke reviews the film later and finds a little African American doll sitting at the top of the stairs. Later, he notices a spot missing on a mural of the dolls in his house. He is viciously attacked by the same doll that tripped his assistant, but is able to fight it off, spouting racial slurs the entire time. Soon, more spots are missing on the painting, indicating that more dolls have come to life and are somewhere in the house. How will Duke survive and will anyone believe him?
Sir, please don't use the American flag to wipe up your fear piss
This story is probably the most horror-centric of the four. There really isn't much to the story other than a racist fights off slave dolls. The story could have used a little better social commentary as this is pretty basic and does not delve deeper when it should have. Corbin Bernsen is great as the racist Southern senator. You really hate him and want to see him die every time he utters a slur. It's a compliment to his acting ability considering a majority of the story is done by himself. The dolls have a very creepy look to them and combined with their viciousness, can be quite scary. This story also includes some stop-motion animation, which looks OK for the time, but could have been better. There is a decent amount of action and one very gory scene at the end.
The final story in tells the tale of gang-banger Crazy K (Lamont Bentley, Moesha, The Parkers), an acquaintance of the three men visiting the funeral home. After a life of violence and murder, Crazy K is shot by three unseen assailants and taken to prison. He is offered a chance at getting out early by Dr. Cushing (Rosalind Cash, The Omega Man, Wrong Is Right). The only catch is that he has to go through an experimental rehabilitation program. K is placed in a cell next to a white supremacist who talks about killing blacks. Angered, K punches him in the face only to cause the supremacist to laugh. He asks K what race were the people that he killed, silencing K. Dr. Cushing puts K through a series of borderline-torture exercises, showing him the consequences of his actions. He is forced to watch scenes of gang violence coupled with pictures of lynchings and the KKK. K is put in a sensory deprivation chamber and starts seeing all of his murder victims. He rejects his responsibility and Dr. Cushing warns him that he will not be given a second chance. Will Crazy K own up to his mistakes and how are Stack, Ball, and Bulldog connected to it?
In Europe, people pay good money for this treatment
Hard-Core Convert has a heavy social message and brings up the issue of responsibility in today's society. It's well done and brings up import issues. I can see where some people may be turned off if they're just looking for a simple horror movie. I was very uneasy about seeing the real-life pictures of lynchings, but that's the point of showing them. It does border on shaming the audience, but real-life horrors are far more disturbing than anything a movie can produce. This story does have a fair amount of psychological horror, but not a lot in the way of traditional horror. The social message is the main purpose of the story and some may be turned off by it. It's still a decent story and with an important message.
Overall, Tales From The Hood is a fun horror anthology with a lot of variety. The cast is very strong with some good performances coming from David Alan Grier, Tom Wright, and Clarence Williams III. While some stories are better than others, none are bad and offer the audience something different. There are some fun death scenes and a good amount of violence and gore. The movie has a lot of social commentary which will understandably turn off some viewers. I never felt lectured at and never felt that the movie was geared towards a different audience. I'm surprised that there haven't been any sequels to Tales From The Hood. Other urban horror anthologies have come out, like Snoop Dogg's Hood Of Horror and Nite Tales, but neither hold a candle to Tales From The Hood.