Starring Clarence Williams III, Joe Torry, De’aundre Bonds, Samuel Monroe, Jr., Tom Wright, Anthony Griffith, Wings Hauser, Michael Massee, Duane Whitaker, Brandon Hammond, Rusty Cundieff, Paula Jai Parker, David Alan Grier, Corbin Bernsen, Roger Guenveur Smith, Lamont Bentley, Rosalind Cash
Directed by Rusty Cundieff
Expectations: Low, I’m not an anthology fan. I do love the poster, though.
On the general scale:
On the B-movie scale:
I’ve never been one for horror anthology films, but my love of Tales from the Crypt, and my ideas that this would be a fun, black version of that, won me over and led to me giving this one a shot. Well… it ain’t pretty. There’s not a whole lot that’s good here, but thankfully, what’s good is excellent. But those excellent bits I’m referring to are the FX, which realistically are about 1% of the actual runtime. Everything else is just painful, or boring, or both.
The film opens with a title sequence that involves the camera slowly moving around a skeleton decked out in locs, a bandana and smoking a fat blunt. While I found this funny, and therefore kind of expected something of a horror comedy from the film, I was sorely disappointed when the first tale began with extreme, racially charged violence from a group of asshole white cops. It’s not really offensive as it takes stereotypes and plays them up for the purpose of crashing them down with giant horror payoffs, but it was still jarring. I’m willing to buy into the movie for those payoffs, but no matter how hard I tried I was unable to get involved completely in any of the stories except the final, Clockwork Orange-inspired one (which coincidentally ends with the worst payoff of the entire film).
So while I can get into using the horror film as a method of delivering social commentary, Tales from the Hood doesn’t actually say anything about what it brings up other than, “Oh yeah? Well take this, you motherfucker!” Racist cops? Oh yeah? Well take this, you motherfuckers! Child abuser and wife beater? Oh yeah? Well take this, you motherfucker! Proud KKK member? Oh yeah? You get the idea. This is a horror movie, so it’s OK to simply craft a fun movie of vengeance, I just wish there was something to like about the segments beyond waiting for the inevitable, gratifying finale of each story.
And speaking of those story finales, they’re mostly incredible. I think my favorite was the end of the second tale, but the first one is great as well. As I said before I thought the ending to the fourth story to be a bit lackluster, but after some reflection I like it more than I did initially. That’s the only ending that doesn’t immediately blast its meaning out in the open, instead playing it somewhat subtly and letting you fill in the blanks for exactly what was happening the whole time. So I can respect it for trying something different, and clever, but I don’t know, I was hoping for some good gore. Oh well. The framing story that we return throughout the film is rather boring as well, until the end when it closes out the film in such grand fashion that you can’t help but smile. I just wish that instead of these flashes of brilliance, the whole movie could have been like that.
Tales from the Hood is not a very good movie, but it does seem like a great one to have on in the background during a Halloween party. That way everyone could watch without being too engaged, everyone goes “OH SHIT!” at all the right parts, and the proper mood is set for the evening. It’s hard for me to completely write this off as a bad movie when the FX and payoffs are so good, and I do think their strengths are enough to warrant watching this if you’re a hardened horror vet or a big fan of anthology films. I’d imagine you’d have already seen this if you’re either of those, but if not, give it a shot. You might like it more than I did.