• Tales From The Hood

    Released By: Shout/Scream Factory
    Released On: April 18, 2017
    Director: Rusty Cundieff
    Cast: Clarence Williams III, David Alan Grier, De'aundre Bonds, Corbin Bernsen
    Year: 1995
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    The Movie:

    Way way back in that decade that us old-timers call the 90's, two film makers got together and decided to create a unique animal in the film world; an anthology horror that would simultaneously frighten and address some of the social issues surrounding Black communities in America. And while Writer/Director Rusty Cundieff and Producer Darin Scott had experienced success in comedy with 1993's Fear Of A Black Hat, the two decided in writing Tales From The Hood that the emphasis would be on serious subject matter and scares, not satire and laughs. With Spike Lee on board as Executive Producer, Tales From The Hood was greenlit by Savoy Pictures, and the vision was realized.

    Tales From The Hood gets off to an eerie start when three west coast gangsta-looking fellows with the colourful names of Stack, Ball, and Bulldog arrive late one night at the creepy Simms Funeral Home. Stack and Co. are there at the request of Mr. Simms (Clarence Williams III), a seemingly unstable mortician with a Don King haircut and a knack for speaking in circles. It turns out that Mr. Simms has discovered a large quantity of dope in an alleyway, courtesy of a recently deceased gangbanger who died of lead poisoning, and would like to turn this find into cold, hard cash. The transaction isn't going to be a quick one, though, as Simms insists on showing the three prospective buyers around his mortuary, introducing them to corpses that have a tale to tell.

    The body of Clarence (Anthony Griffith) is the first casket-adorned victim with a story, a rookie cop who met with a bizarre fate. Not yet wise in the ways of a harsh and cruel world when he donned the badge, Clarence gets his first view of cop corruption when he and his partner, Newton (Michael Massee) come across a not-so-random traffic stop involving a Black "political agitator" named Martin Moorehouse who has been kicking up a fuss about bad cops dealing drugs in his neighbourhood. Led by the uncompromising Officer Strom (Wings Hauser), the traffic stop goes wrong when Moorehouse announces his determination to bring all corrupt cops to justice, which earns him a fatal beating that Clarence is unable to prevent. Retiring from the force, however, does not prove to be the solace that Clarence seeks, and he is slowly driven mad by the voice and visions of Moorehouse's vengeful spirit.

    The next chapter of anthology involves Walter, a young boy starting at a new urban school. Walter is the shy, quiet type of kid that often becomes prey to bullies, a tradition that is reinforced on the first day when he takes a ferocious beating from Ty, a fellow student with an eye for the weak. When Walter's teacher Mr. Garvy (Rusty Cundieff) intervenes, he finds that Walter has sustained numerous bruises that haven't come from the schoolyard, leading to fears of domestic abuse. Walter, however, is adamant that although the injuries did occur in the home, they're the work of "The Monster"; a fierce and violent creature that lives in the boy's closet. Garvy heads to the boy's home, which he shares with his mother and her boyfriend (David Alan Grier), for some answers, and finds that Walter's supernatural description of his home situation isn't too far off the mark.

    Corbin Bernsen is probably best-remembered as the handsome Arnie Becker from TV's L.A. Law, but in the third chapter of Tales From The Hood, this good-looking corpse is Duke Metger, a politician with White supremacist leanings running for office. Metger's (obviously based on Klansman-turned-politician David Duke) racist rhetoric certainly hasn't earned him any friends in the Black community, who gather daily on his property line to protest his bigotry, but he hopes to win some votes with the help of African-American campaign manager Rhodie (Roger Guenveur Smith), a man who has no issue putting his race aside to help Duke succeed. With such a setup, it's obvious that Duke and Rhodie are due for a serious karmic beatdown, which comes in the form of a myth surrounding the plantation that Duke has set up shop in; a tale of murdered slaves and possessed dolls. With a serious nod to the classic Trilogy of Terror, coupled with...well, creepy animated dolls, "KKK Comeuppance" manages to be one of the creepiest of the segments in the film.

    The last corpse in Simms' mortuary that the buyers are introduced to is none other than Crazy K, the gangster whose drugs they are there to purchase. Initially spared from being shot to death by the police, Crazy K is taken to a special sort of prison where he is given a chance at an early release; provided that he subjects himself to "Behavioural Modification" at the hands of Dr. Cushing (Rosalind Cash). Before this treatment can begin, though, Crazy is caged overnight next to an unapologetic neo-nazi, who praises K's impressive track record of murdering Black folks. Crazy, however, is not as taken with this skinhead, in spite of his claims that people like Crazy will be spared when the Whites win the impending race war, as he emerges the next morning in Cushing's care for treatment. It's Clockwork Orange all over again as Crazy is strapped near-naked to a table and shown countless, maddening films of Klan violence as well as Black-on-Black crime, and a trip to a sensory deprivation tank forces Crazy to confront the souls of his many victims; both fellow criminals as well as innocent bystanders. But when the pupil fails to complete the course, his fate is to take a trip to Simms' house....and his story will have serious and unexpected implications for the trio known as Stack, Ball, and Bulldog.

    As the first of its kind, Tales From The Hood succeeds surprisingly in carrying out its mission to be both a horror film and a social commentary. Addressing the horror aspect of the film is quite simple; this has far less comedy and cheese than found in other anthology collections such as Creepshow. And although this viewer is past the phase of being frightened by a film, there are quite a few genuinely creepy moments. By keeping the funny mainly in the bookends, the segments here are permitted to focus fully on the unsettling, and they do so well. Creep factor aside, there are also some intense moments of gore and effects, even though some of the larger pieces suffer from that weird demon aesthetic that was floating around in the 90's. Still, the horror here is solid, and manages to be largely consistent throughout. The same can be said about the social messages here, that are obviously more specific to the Black community; police corruption, domestic abuse in broken homes, racist politicians, gang violence; all are treated here with respect, and are never exploitative or stereotypical...though there are definitely no issues with subtlety. The social messages of Tales From The Hood will slap you across the face, but never to the extreme point where they negate the rest of the film.

    As for the rest of the film, well, there's a lot to love. With four segments bookended, Tales From The Hood flies by at just under 100 minutes, never spending long enough in one chapter to get boring or drawn out. Cundieff has an eye for what works, what's entertaining, and how to work that camera, and that, coupled with an impressive soundtrack, keeps the film moving along at a rapid pace. A jaw-dropping cast doesn't hurt at all, either, though the actors have to work to outshine Clarence Williams III, the giant, gaudy centerpiece, who manages to confuse, creep, and amuse simultaneously. Some curious casting choices (David Alan Grier) work out far better than expected, and you certainly can't go wrong with the late Michael Massee and Wings Hauser. With so many pieces in play, Tales From The Hood overcomes the odds and somehow and somehow nails all of its goals, creating a film that escapes the trappings of being overplayed camp, making it relevant over twenty years later.


    Shout/Scream brings Tales From The Hood to Blu-ray with an AVC-encoded 1.85:1 transfer that will cause fans of the film to dance for joy while opening the front door and using their existing crappy DVDs as frisbees. Detail is pretty great here, and the night scenes, which dominate the film, retain clarity and depth without suffering from noise and ugly blacks. Interior shots, especially those in the funeral parlor, carry a wide spectrum of colour with a satisfying level of saturation that almost pops. Certainly, there are other scenes that don't come off as well, but this is a great-looking, damage-free transfer and a massive upgrade from previous releases.

    There are two feature audio tracks, both in English, and both DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0. One of these is labelled "Alternate" and sounds like it may be the original uncompressed audio track, as it's not quite as punchy as the main track. In any event, the audio is pleasantly robust for a 2.0, with dialogue remaining clear and consistent throughout, and balanced well within the rest of the soundstage. The real surprise here is when the soundtrack kicks in, most notably during the prison segment, as the stereo track masterfully handles the booming hip-hop that suddenly pops up. No distortion or hiss to be found in the main track, which is also available with English subtitles.

    First up in the extra features is Welcome To Hell: The Making of Tales From The Hood (56:13). Impressively, just about everyone involved in the making of the film is present for this all-new feature, as Writer/Director Rusty Cundieff and Writer Darin Scott discuss the genesis of Tales From The Hood, and how their interests in horror and the social issues affecting the Black community were combined. Kenneth Hall and other Special Effects wizards are on hand to talk about the magic used to create the carnage, and Wings Hauser, Corbin Bernsen, and other cast members make themselves available to talk about their roles and reaction to the film. An entertaining watch,, Welcome To Hell seems a lot shorter than its running time.

    A Vintage Featurette (6:04) looks a little worse for wear, but contains clips from the film and behind the scenes footage, as well as interviews with Clarence Williams III and Spike Lee.

    A Trailer and three-and-a-half minutes of TV spots are also available, as is a Photo Gallery (9:46) that is essentially an animated video of stills as opposed to the usual user-advanced slideshow.

    Finally, a commentary with Writer/Director Rusty Cundieff helps to shed some more light on the making of the film, without too much redundancy in the information available in Welcome To Hell. Starting off with a great story about a call from Spike Lee, Cundieff leaves not too many gaps as he talks about the casting of the film, the locations used and the set design, shares some anecdotes about special effects...including the mishaps...and also touches on the social issues that he felt were important to bring to the film, and the mistakes that film makers often fall into when presenting these issues. Oh, and he hates palm trees. All in all, a good commentary worth listening to.

    The Final Word:

    Fans of Tales From The Hood and anthology horror in general have good cause to be jazzed about this release. Shout/Scream has delivered a great product that easily trumps existing releases.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!

  • Recent Article Comments Widget

    Mark C.

    Shocking Dark

    I want to order this but have blown through my monthly dvd budget, went a little crazy at dddhouse... Go to last post

    Mark C. 05-25-2018 07:13 PM

    Shocking Dark

    For those in the UK, Strange Vice have the T2 slipcase version in stock now.
    ... Go to last post

    agent999 05-25-2018 02:24 PM
    Paul L

    Of Unknown Origin

    Nice review, Ian. This is a good film. I think I'll have to import this, especially considering my... Go to last post

    Paul L 05-23-2018 06:11 PM
    Paul L

    Shocking Dark

    Really looking forward to getting my hands on this disc. I've only seen the film via pretty dire... Go to last post

    Paul L 05-23-2018 06:07 PM

    Shocking Dark

    Huge Mattei fan and this is an entertaining one for sure. Never thought it would get a disc release... Go to last post

    moviegeek86 05-23-2018 11:57 AM