Tales from the Hood / Tales from the Hood 2 [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray B - United Kingdom - British Film Institute
Review written by and copyright: James-Masaki Ryan (3rd November 2020).
The Film

"Tales from the Hood" (1995)

Stack (played by Joe Torry), Ball (played by De'aundre Bonds) and Bulldog (played by Samuel Monroe Jr.) are three lowlife drug dealers that arrive at a local mortuary, curated by the eccentric Mr. Simms (played by Clarence Williams III). Simms says he found some drugs in the alleyway and the gangsters are there to pick up the lost stash, but there is a little more that Simms has for the three than just the drugs. While walking through the building, there are various caskets with various bodies, each having a story to tell. As an eager storyteller, Simms delightfully indulges the gangsters with their tales, ranging from racial violence, monstrous abuse, experimental terror, and more...

Taking cues from anthology horror films such as "The House That Dripped Blood" and "Creepshow" among others, as well as TV series such as "Tales from the Crypt" and "The Twilight Zone", "Tales from the Hood" used the formula of a storyteller in wraparound segments connecting a series of stories. Like many of those horror and science fiction works, this film also dealt with monsters, violence, and supernatural elements, but the interesting twist was that each of the stories were social moral tales that encapsulated the black experience of the period. The film's cast was predominantly black, much of the crew including the director and writer were black, and was something fresh and different from the rest of the cinematic landscape of 1995.

"Tales from the Hood" has four short story segments. The first, "Rogue Cop Revelation" deals with unnecessary police brutality, with the murder of civil rights activist Martin Moorehouse (played by Tom Wright) during a traffic stop by white police officers. But the ghost of Moorehouse is not finished, with the policemen being taken down one by one by the tormented sou, ready for revenge as a monstrous corpse. The second, "Boys Do Get Bruised" has young elementary school student Walter (played by Brandon Hammond) appearing to have bruises on him, which makes his teacher (played by the director Rusty Cundieff) seek out where the abuse is coming from. Walter claims that there is a monster that is physically hurting him, leading the teacher to investigate further. The second story looks at domestic violence and abusive relationships, while also adding a bit of a supernatural twist (pun intended) with the young boy. The third segment, "KKK Comeuppance" showcases the racist KKK leader turned senator Duke Metger (played by Corbin Bernsen) who moves into a mansion that was a former slave plantation, against the wishes of many protesters. Said that the plantation is haunted by dolls that are possessed by the souls of slaves, Metger has found no evidence of dolls being anywhere in the house, but mysterious things start to occur, and vengeance is at play... In the final tale, "Hard-Core Convert", gang member "Crazy K" (played by Lamont Bentley) gets an unusual chance for early release from prison, with the help of Dr. Cushing (played by Rosalind Cash). She sets him through odd experimental treatments in a laboratory, but how much is real and how much is fabricated?

Director Rusty Cundieff's previous film "Fear of a Black Hat" released theatrically in 1994 was one of the most clever and hilarious mockumentary films parodying rap artists and their glitz and glamor. Though it was overshadowed by another rap parody film "CB4" starring Chris Rock the previous year which bombed, it didn't leave "Fear of a Black Hat" in a good place as distributors thought having a similar themed film would not be profitable. It wasn't marketed well, but was critically lauded, including praise from filmmaker Spike Lee who was actually parodied in the film. Lee had previously cast Cundieff as an actor in "School Daze", and he was ready to work with him again for a new project, ready to produce whatever Cundieff wanted to make. Cundieff was looking to do a horror film in an anthology form, and alongside co-writer Darin Scott who also produced "Fear of a Black Hat". The two had experience with horror storytelling on stage, but this would be quite a departure in tone and a leap in production compared to their previous film.

"Tales from the Hood" was made as a serious horror anthology, complete with gory and bloody effects from The Chiodo Brothers, Screaming Mad George, and KNB providing many of the elaborate effects work. The special effects were almost entirely practical, with severed heads, mangled bodies, melting faces, stop motion animation, and much more done with analogue techniques for a genuinely realistic touch. Though some of the gory effects had some issues with the MPAA in getting an R rating, the bigger issues of cuts came from completely different scenes. In the first story where the police beat a citizen mercilessly, some shots had to be removed as they were considered too violent and too long. In the segment of the monster where David Alan Grier beats Paula Jai Parker with a belt, this also had to be toned down further. Both sequences were not particularly gory, but had the similar case of people committing violence on other people, rather than monsters or the supernatural. The film was filled with jump scares and gore, along with some dark humor but it also had much more than that with social messages within each segment. "Rogue Cop Revelation" looked at police brutality against blacks, and the Rodney King beating by Los Angeles police officers caught on tape still resonated with Americans in 1995. Unfortunately with the case of George Floyd earlier this year, the issue is not something of yesteryear but ongoing in the 21st century. "Boys Do Get Bruised" takes the story of the monster hiding in the child's closet to a new level, by looking at child abuse and spousal abuse, which seemed to be highlighted even further on television with American daytime talk shows dealing with domestic violence and shows like the long running "COPS" showing them for primetime audiences through reality television. "KKK Comeuppance" takes inspiration from the former KKK leader and gubernatorial candidate David Duke who did lose the governor's election, but left a bitter taste by still being able to get more than 60% of the white male vote in the state. The segment has the bad guy in the lead, and while he is easy to hate for his attitude and his deeds, it's one that the audience waits anxiously for him to get what he deserves. "Hard-Core Convert" looks at black on black violence, comparing the needless gang violence against racial violence over the centuries. While the segment itself might be the weakest, it is one that shocks with the treatment segments including flashing images of real lynchings and murders of black people. There are humorous moments, especially with the "KKK Comeuppance" story with the senator and the dolls attacking and some of the incidental dialogue. But most of these stories were not meant to funny at all, looking at serious issues that affected the black, minority, and poorer communities of the period, but disguised as a satirical horror film with genuine scares and gore.

There are quite a number of standout performances. Clarence Williams III) is devlishly entertaining as narrator Mr. Simms, with his wicked smile yet inviting tone. David Alan Grier going against expectations as a comedy actor by taking on a seriously villifying role is a welcome surprise. Corbin Bernsen as a racist senator is one that audiences love to hate, yet are attracted to his excellent performance. Music was excellent as well with the soundtrack featuring Wu Tang Clan, Spice-1, MC Eiht of Compton's Most Wanted, Gravediggaz and more, featuring a good amount of east and west coast rappers in an age where the rivalry was still high. While there are great performances and nice gore effects, there are some drawbacks as well. Some of the scares are not as effective as they could be, some of the limitations of the effects work are noticeable, and the stories are not consistent in quality overall. But like all anthology films, not all the episodes will work equally well. But nonetheless, "Tales from the Hood" delivers a very entertaining and thought provoking experience with the addition of blood and gore.

Made on a modest $6 million budget, "Takes from the Hood" was released theatrically by Savoy Pictures on May 24th, 1995 in the United States. The marketing was questionable to say the least as Savoy didn't seem to know how to do so. Audiences, myself included, thought it was a parody horror film. The title was very similar to Universal's "Tales from the Crypt: Demon Knight" which only released theatrically a few months ahead in the same year. Cundieff's previous film was a parody film, and even with the trailer touting being produced by the producer of "Menace II Society", it wasn't enough to reach audiences, grossing a lowly $11 million theatrically. It did not kick off any revolution for episodic horror films or black horror films, and due to rights issues, it took some time for a sequel to be made. And in 2018, Cundieff and Scott returned to the hood in for the second film.


"Tales from the Hood 2" (2018)

Mr. Beach (played by Bill Martin Williams), the president of the Beach corporation develops a new robot warrior with the skill to learn from first and second hand sources and human interaction. Ready to give the robot additional intelligence through moral tales, Mr. Simms (played by Keith David) is hired to tell his blend of witty and horrifying tales of terror, dealing with deadly sins of past deeds and the black experience.

The first tale, "Good Golly" deals with Audrey (played by Alexandria DeBerry), Philip (played by Andy Cohen) and Zoe (played by Jasmine Akakpo) visit the Museum of Negrosity, a small rural operation by Floyd (played by Lou Beatty Jr.), an elderly black man that curates a collection of racially insensitive propaganda and goods from African-American history as a reminder of the evils of racist ideals. Audrey wants to buy a black charicature golly doll, though Floyd mentions it is not for sale. But when the three come up with a scheme to steal it at night, they get much more than they bargained for... The second tale, "The Medium" has TV psychic John Lloyd (played by Bryan Batt) put in a difficult situation by gangsters Brian (played by Martin Bats Bradford), Booze (played by Kedrick Brown), and Gore (played by Chad L. Chambers) break into his home, forcing him to a seance to speak to the soul of the recently deceased Cliff Bettis (played by Creighton Thomas). Though Lloyd is not a real psychic but fools people with television techniques, this will be the first time he will experience something very real and very unusual. "Date Night" is the third episode, with two young men Ty (played by Alexander Biglane) and Kahad (played by Greg Tarzan Davis) are ready for a hot double Tinder date with beauties Carmen (played by Alexandria Ponce) and Liz (played by Cat Limket). But they are not the types to just lay out charms only, but using a date-rape drug to get action with the unconscious girls. But they are no ordinary girls, and the boys are in for some gory and sinister trouble. "The Sacrifice" is the final tale, with black Republican politician Henry Bradley (played by Kendrick Cross) and his expecting white wife Emily (played by Jillian Batherson) having some mysterious visits from the past. The ghost of Emmett Till (played by Christopher Paul Horne) visits them and not only is the unborn baby's life at stake, but history itself may change for the worst with what Emmett sees with the racially unjust campaigning that Henry is doing.

Due to the bankruptcy of Savoy Pictures, the rights to "Tales from the Hood" being continued was up in the air, as the rightsholders changed around, finally ending up at Focus Features, the sidearm of Universal which was geared more towards independent dramas. The first film was not much of a hit and there was no appetite for black horror or episodic horror. But with films like "VHS" proving episodic horror did have an audience, and the massive critical and commercial hit "Get Out" proved in 2017 that black horror was viable and had broad appeal, that Universal was more than happy to set in motion a sequel to "Tales from the Hood" with the aptly titled "Tales from the Hood 2" twenty-three years later. And to great surprise, the creators of the original film were back to write and direct the sequel rather than handing it off to a reboot team.

Rusty Cundieff and Darin Scott share writing and directing credits on "Tales from the Hood 2", produced direct to video by Universal, ready to capitalize on the success of their hit "Get Out" from the previous year. Ironically, a year before "Get Out", Cundieff said they were rejected by pitches for a black horror movie as Hollywood saw no market value or audience for such a project. For "Tales from the Hood 2", the formula was kept the same, with Mr. Simms narrating the macabre tales, though due to previous actor Clarence Williams III's retirement, he was replaced by horror icon Keith David, well established with his collaborations with John Carpenter. As the first film reflected the times when it was made, the second film also dealt with modern issues. The character of Mr. Beach may not be a politician, but he does have echoes of Donald Trump with his sexist womanizing approach and his disdain for immigrants and looking down on blacks as inferior. "Black Lives Matter" takes the center stage with the themes of some of the stories, and even mentioned by the characters. Tonally the film does seem a bit on the lighter side in comparison to the first film. The wraparound segments with Mr. Beach and the robot is not exactly menacing or dark as the funeral home in the first film, with brightly lit colors and the daytime atmosphere. Strangely the Beach logo looks exactly like a Blu-ray Region B logo, with the B in a webbed hexagon. Shot on digital, the effects work being also digital for the most part means a more slick looking production but lacking in the hand crafted atmosphere and horror the first film provided.

As for the story segments, the first, "Good Golly" is unfortunately one of the weaker segments, with the golly doll coming to life as a mascot size figure and terrorizing the three that try to steal it. In comparison to the first film's dolls attacking the senator (which the main doll of the first film makes an obvious cameo in the second film's museum), the terror segments come quite late and the scares don't live up to shock but instead feels cartoon-like. Sure, golly dolls are culturally insensitive, but the short doesn't particularly scream out as being timely. The second, "The Medium" is also unfortunately a weak effort dealing with possession and a surprise seance working unexpectedly. Sure, it is funny to have a fake TV psychic about to be exposed and dealing with gangsters thinking he is real, but was there a reason to make his character a fake? The story could have worked better perhaps by making him a person with real psychic abilities, but instead the comedy takes the center stage rather than the supernatural or horror elements. It's entertaining for sure, but tonally off and doesn't have a satisfying edge to it. For the third segment "Date Night", it echoes that of Bill Cosby and other sadly newsworthy stories of date-rapists and their actions not being prosecuted as seriously as they should. It is a spoiler, so beware from here. The girls are not affected by the drug, but instead are using the men to their advantage, as they are vampires feeding for blood. It gives an interesting twist on the date-rape issue and is a satisfying one especially from a female perspective of dickish males getting what they deserve. But the question is, does this particularly fit with the theme of black horror? Not particularly, though it is a fairly satisfying one. The fourth segment "The Sacrifice" is a powerful one, and the best was saved for last. Taking more inspiration from "The Twilight Zone", it has one of the most horrific stories interweaved, being basically two stories in one with two timelines. One is in the past in 1955, the night that 14 year old Emmett Till was brutally murdered by white men and the events leading up to his death. As for the story of Henry and Emily and their unborn child, it deals with many of the racially unjust doings of the Republican party to gerrymander districts for their advantage, making voting harder for African-Americans, and having a black Republican looking basically the other way to support himself rather than work the people he represents. Time travel is played with, as well as altering the future by changing the past, begging the question: What if Emmett Till caved in and proved he was a coward, therefore not being killed? Would the civil rights movement have picked up steam at all? The segment has the spirits of the 4 Little Girls and Martin Luther King Jr. visit Henry. Respecting the sacrifices of the past means changing the future, and that is something he must decide to do. Is he willing to sacrifice his position of power in order for racial justice to move forward, or is it too late to reverse it all? "Black Lives Matter" is a truly powerful slogan. Their lives are as precious as anyone else and the atrocities that left many dead for horrible reasons should never be repeated, but sadly even in the 21st century, the violence, the unjust treatment still continues. "The Sacrifice" is by no means a horror segment but instead a powerful one symbolically.

Visually the film is much brighter, bolder, and sharper than the first film, but with the constantly moving camera, it never feels grounded or scary, as horror works much better to set up tension by having lesser camera movement or unnoticeable cuts and edits. Though the film is categorized as horror, it doesn't feel like one in comparison to the first film. As for the direction, the two directors split the duties, with Cudieff directing "Good Golly", "The Sacrifice" and the wraparound segment "Robo-Hell". "The Medium" and "Date Night" were directed by Scott. While it was a direct to video piece with a small $2 million budget, there were some concerns with the anti-Republican edge of the two segments "Robo-Hell" and "The Sacrifice". It seems there was a head of Universal who was conservative and was not happy with the way both stories ended, with Henry having to reject his party and the way Beach meets his fate. Some dialogue was removed from "The Sacrifice" but "Robo-Hell" had to be reshot with an alternate ending. Cundieff was not satisfied with the ending had to be reshot and viewers might also feel a little bit of an unsatisfactory edge there, but the basic outcome is the same. Overall the second film is inconsistent with the tone and the stories. There are some good moments and "The Sacrifice" is very worthy, but it doesn't quite live up to the cult favorite the first film became.

With the fair success of the second film, Cundieff and Scott were quickly given a greenlight for a third film, "Tales from the Hood 3", released in October of this year, in which Cundieff said personally was much better than the second film, learning from what was done in the second and applying them to the third. There are talks of an television series to continue with more stories, and that is a very welcome idea. An interesting revival that started as a film more than two decades ago that was underseen and underappreciated.

Note this is a region B Blu-ray set

Video

The BFI presents "Tales from the Hood" in the theatrical 1.85:1 aspect ratio in 1080p AVC MPEG-4. The HD transfer was provided by NBC Universal. There is no detailed information on what elements were used for the remaster. The picture is very good with vivid colors in the gory segments shining brightly and dark sequences having good depth. Detail is sharp, film grain is always visible, and there are no noticeable damage marks to be found. It is by no means a perfect looking transfer, as some sequences have more grain than others, some interior sequences lack finer detail at time, and colors can look a little drab as well. But overall it is a solid looking transfer.

The film's runtime is 97:21. Cunieff discusses some of the MPAA cuts made to the film, but these cuts seem to have been lost over time.

The BBFI presents "Tales from the Hood" in the original 1.78:1 aspect ratio in 1080p AVC MPEG-4. The HD transfer was provided by NBC Universal. Shot and edited digitally, there is very little to fault with the transfer, being very slick and colorful throughout. From the neon colors in "Date Night" to the outdoor greens in "The Sacrifice", colors look bright and bold, while detail is always crisp in the transfer. The only drawback is not particular with the transfer, but it never feels much like a horror film in general.

The film's runtime is 110:28.

Audio

"Tales from the Hood"
English LPCM 2.0 stereo

Tales from the Hood 2"
English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
English LPCM 2.0 stereo

The first film has the original 2.0 stereo track while the sequel has a 5.1 track and an optional 2.0 stereo downmix. For the first film, the stereo track sounds quite good, with the hip hop tracks and the score given great stereo separation throughout. The dialogue is well balanced against the music and effects, being mostly centered for the film. There are no particular issues with audio dropouts, hiss, pops, or other errors.
The second film's 5.1 mix is very good, again using the surrounds for music and effects, and the center being used mostly for dialogue. A well balanced track, though there are no big moments or audio scares to particuarly speak of that stand out.

There are English HoH subtitles in a white font for both films.

Extras

This is a 2-disc set with the first film and extras being on DISC ONE and the second film and more extras being on DISC TWO.


DISC ONE

Audio commentary by co-writer / director Rusty Cundieff

This 2017 commentary has Cundieff recalling the production for the first film. He talks about each of the special effects sequences, giving away secrets as well as what cuts had to be made to achieve an R-rating. He also discusses how the film was made, the importance of including social issues within each story, and much more. This commentary was recorded for the 2017 US Shout! Factory Blu-ray edition.
in English LPCM 2.0 with no subtitles

“Welcome to Hell: The Making of Tales from the Hood” documentary (56:13)
In this 2017 documentary, various members of the cast and crew recall the production of the first film, with Cundieff, Scott, the Chiodo brothers, Kenneth Hall, Corbin Bernsen, Anthony Griffith, and more being interviewed. They discuss the making of the film with the writing process, the hand made effects work by talented artists, the mad marketing of the film, how the film holds up, and the reactions, plus more. This documentary was originally part of the 2017 US Shout! Factory Blu-ray edition.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.78:1, in English LPCM 2.0 with no subtitles

Trailer
The original US theatrical trailer is presented here.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.33:1, in English LPCM 2.0 with no subtitles


DISC TWO

Interview with Darin Scott (18:48)

This new 2020 interview with Scott is moderated by Abigail Yartey, which talks about both the first and second films. Scott discusses the influences, the inspirations from reality, trends in black cinema, the rights issues the film had and more. Due to COVID-19 the interview had to be done remotely, and since this was done through computer screens and microphones there are times when the image is blocky and the audio cuts in and out.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in English LPCM 2.0 with no subtitles

Interview with Rusty Cundieff (68:33)
In this 2020 interview moderated by Adam Murray, Cundieff talks about both films, about "Fear of a Black Hat" leading to Spike Lee's involvement, the importance of satire in storytelling, his first meeting with Scott, the troubles with the MPAA on the first film and the reshoots that had to be done with the second film, and much more.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in English LPCM 2.0 with no subtitles

Gallery (5:00)
An automated slideshow featuring, storyboards, the original script with notes, and call sheets, from the first film, plus behind the scenes stills of the second film including shots of the deleted original ending, and poster designs.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4


Booklet
A 28 page booklet is included. The essay, entitled "Tales from My Hood: An Autobiographical Take on Black Horror" is by Bristol based writer/curator Adam Murray, who discusses not only the film and the impact it had on him but also other horror from his childhood and seeing the differing effects it had on his multiculural family. It's a lengthy and excellent read. There are full credits for both films, stills, special features information, transfer information, and acknowledgements.


"Tales from the Hood" was originally released on Laserdisc by HBO video in 1995, which included an exclusive commentary by Rusty Cundieff that has never been ported elsewhere. It was issued on DVD by HBO video in 1998, which included a vintage making-of featurette with trailer and TV spots. For Blu-ray, the Shout! Factory in the US gave it its debut on the format, including the new commentary and documentary found also on this BFI release, plus the vintage featurette, trailer and TV spots. This BFI release may not have the vintage featurette, but the exclusive interviews are very good in content. As for "Tales from the Hood 2", Universal issued it on Blu-ray in the US and Germany with the same specs, containing no extras at all. It's unfortunate the mentioned deleted scenes or behind the scenes featurettes were not included on this release. Universal uploaded clips and extended previews to YouTube two years ago, but nothing that can't be seen in the finished film.

Packaging

This is a limited edition of 3000 units only.

Overall

"Tales from the Hood 1&2" is an easily satisfying set of two films made more than two decades apart with the first being a bloody and fun cult hit, plus the second film that has its inconsistent ups and downs. A great amount of extras are included on this BFI limited edition, and it's recommended. Ready for the third movie next...

The Film: B+ Video: A- Audio: A- Extras: B+ Overall: B+

 


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