“I’m Paul Barlow, and this is my daughter Jo.”

“Malone.”

“You got a first name?”

“Yeah.”

Tales From the Hood

tn_tales“This ain’t a funeral home. It ain’t the Terrordome neither!”

Here’s a movie that’s very much of the ’90s. After BOYZ N THE HOOD, STRAIGHT OUT OF BROOKLYN, NEW JACK CITY, SOUTH CENTRAL, JUICE and MENACE II SOCIETY established the genre of the “hood movie,” FEAR OF A BLACK HAT director Rusty Cundieff decided to mix it with the format of the anthology horror movie. Like those other movies it’s a low budget indie movie trying to get across messages about issues facing the black community, but with Twilight Zone type ironic morals and some crazy special effects and stuff. Spike Lee (whose CLOCKERS came out the same year) acted as executive producer to help get it made.

The wraparound story takes place in Simms Funeral Parlor, where three young drug dealers meet with the crazy-eyed, puffy-haired, organ-playing weirdo (Clarence Williams III, PURPLE RAIN) who runs the place. He claims to have found a bunch of drugs in an alley, but before they can make a transaction he starts opening up coffins and telling them the stories of the occupants’ deaths. As you do.

The first story deals with a topic that was from the headlines then and before and now. It starts with a black man pulled over by a group of white cops who insult, threaten, and then beat him. In this story, though, it’s a broader criminal conspiracy than usual: these cops are dealing heroin, and their victim Martin Moorhouse (Tom Wright, Charles from MARKED FOR DEATH) is a deliberately targeted councilman trying to keep them out of his community. They drug him and kill him and plant drugs on him. Like HARD TO KILL except he’s a regular amount of difficulty to kill so they succeed.

mp_talesfromthehoodBut he still comes back for revenge! The protagonist is Clarence (Anthony Griffith, PANTHER, CHARLIE’S ANGELS: FULL THROTTLE) the rookie who was the only black cop on the scene, subsequently quit the force and has been figuratively haunted by guilt and literally haunted by the ghost of Moorehouse. He lures the three cops who did it – Wings Hauser (VICE SQUAD, THE CARPENTER), Michael Massee (THE CROW, CATWOMAN) and Duane Whitaker (LEATHERFACE, PULP FICTION) – to his grave on the anniversary and maybe nothing would’ve happened except that one of them is crazy fuckin Hauser, so he decides he’s gonna piss on the grave and force his reluctant comrades in corruption to do the same. And you know how piss magic works, you’ve seen it in everything from the dog that resurrects Freddy in A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 4 to Jason Bateman and Ryan Reynolds switching bodies in THE CHANGE-UP. Anyway, a zombie or ghost hand grabs one cop by the dick and bonks his head a couple times against the grave, and you can imagine where it would go from there.

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This is a good story showing both the strengths and the weaknesses of this type of format. You have a nice comeuppance-fueled short story with themes specifically relevant to African Americans. And it shames not only the evil cops but also the nice one who failed to intervene. But because they’re painting with such a broad brush they end up taking the police corruption to super villain levels, which makes the satire less accurate.

The second story sticks it to abusers. Cundieff himself plays Mr. Garvy, a nice private school teacher who notices bruises on his new student Walter (Brandon Hammond, 5 year old Caine in MENACE II SOCIETY, 10 year old Michael Jordan in SPACE JAM), who claims they came from a monster. Obviously Mr. Garvy suspects this kid is being beaten by someone in his family. Both are correct: his asshole stepfather (David Alan Grier, 3 STRIKES) literally turns into a monster at night and attacks him. Walter’s way of defeating him (drawing a picture and crumpling it) is cool, but not very well explained, since he also uses it on a non-monster, and it’s never established why he can do this magic. But it’s worth it for the cool death sequence

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and Grier’s non-monster scenes are authentically assholeish enough to make his outlandish punishment satisfying.

My favorite story is the third one, about Duke Metger (Corbin Bernsen, RADIOLAND MURDERS), an ex-Klansman running for governor of (I believe) Louisiana, as David Duke had done a few years earlier. Metger runs on a platform of complaining about affirmative action and welfare, he calls black protesters a “minstrel show” and he runs his campaign out of a former plantation where the owner infamously massacred his slaves when they were freed. People want him out of there, but he likes it for its “certain Southern charm.” One thing he probly would’ve wanted to know about: inside the mansion there are some antique dolls that are possessed by the souls of the murdered slaves according to local-man-who-tries-to-warn-them Art Evans (TRESPASS, DIE HARD 2).

Before long, the little guys are showing up in weird places and even moving themselves in cool PUPPET MASTER style stop motion sequences done by KILLER KLOWNS FROM OUTER SPACE creators the Chiodo Brothers. “No reparations!” the councilman yells as he throws a vase at a killer doll that looks like that Li’l Penny guy that Chris Rock used to voice in the Nike commercials.

But the dolls aren’t only after the white supremacist. They’re just as angry at Roger Smith (DO THE RIGHT THING, MERCENARY FOR JUSTICE), who didn’t go by Guenveur Smith yet but already specialized in playing slimy sellouts. He’s obviously a little reluctant about it but he does his best to advise the councilman on how to be palatable to voters. He’s joking around about it when he gets tripped and falls backwards down some stairs.

I love that they got a killer doll story in here, because it’s a good tribute to TRILOGY OF TERROR and maybe BLACK DEVIL DOLL FROM HELL, but it fits the movie perfectly regardless of what it references. There’s a weird history of slavery related knick knacks that you run into in antique stores and stuff. I like seeing them used as an instrument of revenge against bigotry.

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There is a fourth story too, and it’s more like what you expect from a 1995 movie with “HOOD” in the title. It’s about some young street guys and retaliatory shootings. But one guy named Crazy K (Lamont Bentley, Tupac in 2 LEGIT: THE MC HAMMER STORY) ends up in jail and then transferred to a weird hospital jail with a set out of an old Roger Corman movie and a staff who wear sexy latex skirts (I never figured out why). He takes part in a CLOCKWORK ORANGE type experiment where a doctor (Rosalind Cash from OMEGA MAN, who died that Halloween) intersperse his memories of his own black-on-black crime with historical footage of lynchings and cross burnings and stuff. Then he’s confronted by all of the people he caused the deaths of. He tries to blame his parents and the system but his excuses are not a cutting it in a very effective emotional confrontation scene.

I actually think one part was going a little far: the little girl who says he killed her with a stray bullet. I know this is a real tragedy that happens, but I think it’s another example of making the message weaker by overreaching. He should feel guilty enough for the people he attacked intentionally, the extra layer of squandered cuteness is not necessary. So it allows you to think you’re not who it’s talking to if you haven’t accidentally killed a kid yet.

It’s pretty easy to guess how this story is gonna tie in with the wraparound, but it’s still pretty cool. The three drug dealers, Stack, Ball and Bulldog, are played by Joe Torry, De’aundre Bonds and Samuel Monroe Jr. I really like seeing Bonds, a charismatic kid who was great in GET ON THE BUS but missed out on a decade of his career because of a prison stint (he recently played the school security guard in DOPE).

I don’t think it’s giving anything away to confirm that eventually Williams turns into a monster. The sequence is notable for slipping an animated forked tongue through his famous tooth gap.

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Cundieff has mostly worked in broad comedy, but his sophomore movie here is overall serious. He wrote the script with Darin Scott, who not only produced FEAR OF A BLACK HAT and MENACE II SOCIETY, but STEPFATHER II. Scott also wrote FROM A WHISPER TO A SCREAM and directed HOUSE PARTY: TONIGHT’S THE NIGHT.

TALES is a little better looking than Cundieff’s other movies. Cinematographer Anthony B. Richmond also did CANDYMAN, which shares the themes of supernatural horror in the ghetto, avenging ghosts of slaves and creepy murals depicting said ghosts.

The effects artist Screaming Mad George (BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA, NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3 and 4) did the devil at the end and the crumpled David Alan Grier. I guess maybe we credit visual effects supervisor Brian Jennings (MIMIC) for my favorite effect, the incredible melting crooked cop:

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Christopher Young gives it a very haunting theme kind of in the style of his HELLRAISER, but later we hear Nina Simone’s haunting “Strange Fruit” and a bunch of solid gangsta rap songs that now that I think about it might’ve influence the horrorcore style of Snoop Dogg’s BONES soundtrack. They got Wu-Tang, Facemob featuring Scarface, ODB, Gravediggaz. I don’t know why I never got this album. I should get it.

TALES FROM THE HOOD seems to have made a little bit of money relative to its low budget, and the soundtrack went gold. There are at least two black horror anthologies that have come out since – SNOOP DOGG’S HOOD OF HORROR and NITE TALES: THE MOVIE (hosted by Flavor Flav) – but apparently Universal is not interested in Cundieff doing a sequel. Maybe there will be more interest when this comes out on Blu-Ray from Scream Factory in 2017.

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

This entry was posted on Monday, November 7th, 2016 at 11:20 am and is filed under Horror, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

17 Responses to “Tales From the Hood”

  1. This is one of the many times that I visit the site and exclaim, ‘YES!’ just from the title! I’ve been thinking about revisiting this movie for a while!

    …and now to go back up and read the actual review… :)

  2. One more thing: THANKS!

  3. Well done, Vern! Great review.

    My two sons and I saw this one on its release. They were teens. We laughed and laughed at one particular line, perfectly and maniacally delivered: “Ooohh, we’re gonna get the shit now!” We still will use it now and again.

    Thanks, Vern.

  4. This is one of those movies I can’t 100% for sure say I ever saw, but I can definitely say I had the soundtrack. (Other entries on this list include ABOVE THE RIM, NEW JERSEY DRIVE, HIGH SCHOOL HIGH, and, curiously, SUPERFLY.) It’s worth getting, though. The Gravediggaz song is great, the Inspectah Deck song has aged really well, and of course the Ol’ Dirty track is indispensable, given how short his discography ended up being. It’s not gonna change your life but it’s a pretty solid 11-song playlist.

  5. Still remember cranking Spice 1 Born to Die, which is 90s gangsta horrorcore nihilism at its finest.

  6. Yeah, that was a great album. The beats are sinister as fuck, and Spice made no claims to be telling cautionary tales or doing street reportage. He was just selling a straight-up amoral glorification of an garish, overblown caricature of the gangsta lifestyle. If he killed half as many people as he claimed to, there’d be nobody left in Oakland at all.

  7. This movie should have had three or four sequels by now.

  8. I think I could have voted for Trump if he promised to travel back in time and retroactively re-write history to give this movie two or three DTV sequels by 2016. That might actually have made America great again.

  9. Well, there was HOOD OF HORROR, although it was neither good or a real sequel.

  10. Majestyk and hip hop fans, I would strongly recommended the Gangrene (Alchemist and Oh No) album Vodka & Ayahuasca. Gladiator Shit (feat Kool G Rap!) is super dope and feels vaguely Tales from the Hood-ish. Other recommended tracks are Flamethrowers and Dump Truck (Prodigy from Mobb Deep delivers here). The Lord Steppington album (Alchemist and Evidence as Step Brothers) is also a good one, though decidedly less “gangsta” than Gangrene. Was just listening to Gladiator Shit and reminded me of this thread. For my money, Alchemist and Statik Selektah compilation albums are generally the place to go for new rap that sounds like my kind of rap. Czarface has a new album out, as well.

  11. Skani, you made my night man. Definitely went straight to the top of this year’s list.

  12. Blu-Ray on the way:

    Socially Relevant "Tales From the Hood" Getting Blu-ray Release - Bloody Disgusting!

    Having just revisited New Line Cinema’s 1995 Tales From the Hood, I couldn’t believe how socially relevant it was. In fact, 20 years later the movie may be

  13. Not to make you all who can’t go jealous but the Music Box of Horrors will be showing the only surviving print of Tales From the Hood in 16mm on the weekend of October 7 thru 8th for their 24 horror film marathon. The other two announced so far are In the Mouth of Madness and Rare Exports.

  14. Sternshein – The Music Box of Horrors will be fun but I’m gonna turn you on to something even better. Have you heard of the Bruce Cambell Film Fest? It’s usually held in Rosemont to accompany Wizard World or whatever. Anyway, I’ve been for the last 3 years and it is a blast. A bunch of new and classic movies over 4 days! Guests that I’ve met include Cambell, Fred Dekker, Tom Holland (for Fright Night and Child’s Play), Fede Alverez, Stephen Lang (Don’t Breathe premiere), Barbara Crampton…all sitting in a lot of the theaters with everyone else catching up on horror. Tons of fun.
    I was bummed to hear it’s been canceled…but it’s “evolved” to Cinepocalypse and will be at the Music Box in November for 6 days! Might want to check it out. I’m hopeful.

  15. I knew about it but wasn’t ever able to make it out.

    Did you know that originally the Music Box of Horrors and The Massacre were running the same weekend? I’m glad that the Music Box pushed theirs back a week so I could, theoretically, do both. Have you been to either of the 24 Hour movie marathons? They’re a lot of fun.

    I know about Cinepocalypse but I don’t know if I could do the entire pass or anything. I hope that since they’re going away from the horror thing that it’s a week of horror, action and other genre stuff like that.

    My wife loves Bruce Campbell so we’re going to the September 1st thing he’s doing there.

    If you go to any of these we should meet up and start the first ever OutlawVern Fest. Somethings things only start with two people lol

  16. Sure thing Sternshein. I’ll be going to a few things at the music box in the future. Anything cool I’ll reach out. In the meantime, Dunkirk in 70mm was awesome. I could taste the saltwater.

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