Review: ‘Tales from the Hood’

Rusty Cundieff's Tales From the Hood is a smart and sassy horror anthology that mixes blunt shocks and sharp satire.

Rusty Cundieff’s Tales From the Hood is a smart and sassy horror anthology that mixes blunt shocks and sharp satire.

As its title implies, pic is a clever commingling of elements from Boyz N the Hood and Tales From the Crypt. Script by producer Darin Scott (Menace II Society) and director Cundieff (Fear of a Black Hat) is singularly audacious, and perhaps controversial. The filmmakers take dead-serious subjects – racism, child abuse, police brutality, gang violence – and lace them with dark comedy and supernatural horror. Result is a genre-bending pic that is fearsome and ferociously funny as well as socially conscious.

The framing device for the four tales is a latenight visit by three street toughs (Joe Torry, De’Aundre Bonds, Samuel Monroe Jr) to the inner-city funeral home of Mr. Simms (Clarence Williams III). While the hoods impatiently wait for the mortician to turn over a drug stash, Mr. Simms entertains them with spooky tales about his ‘clients.’

First story has Anthony Griffith playing a black rookie policeman who isn’t able to stop three crooked white cops (led by an over-the-top Wings Hauser) from beating, and ultimately killing, a black community leader (Tom Wright). In true E.C. Comics fashion, the victim rises from the grave and wreaks havoc.

Second tale, the most discomforting, is about an abused youngster who claims a ‘monster’ is responsible for his bruises. It turns out that the boy (well played by Brandon Hammond) and his helpless mother (Paula Jai Parker) are regularly victimized by the boy’s brutal stepfather (David Alan Grier). Seg is quite simply one of the most terrifyingly realistic depictions of domestic violence ever seen in a feature film.

The third segment is a Twilight Zone-style parable featuring Corbin Bernsen as an ex-Ku Klux Klansman who runs for governor of an unnamed Deep South state. The plot involves the grisly revenge of a legendary voodoo queen and her homicidal dolls.

Cundieff takes off the gloves for his fourth tale and hammers home his message with earnest zeal. Crazy K (Lamont Bentley), a violent gang-banger, refuses to reform even after he’s nearly killed by well-armed rivals. Arrested and convicted, he volunteers for a ‘behavioral modification’ experiment, and is briefly imprisoned near a homicidal white supremacist. The irony, of course, is that the white supremacist thinks Crazy K is ‘cool,’ since both men have a penchant for killing black people.

Tales from the Hood

Production

40 Acres and a Mule/Savoy. Director Rusty Cundieff; Producer Darin Scott; Screenplay Rusty Cundieff, Darin Scott; Camera Anthony Richmond; Editor Charles Bornstein; Music Christopher Young; Art Director Stuart Blatt

Crew

(Color) Available on VHS. Extract of a review from 1995. Running time: 97 MIN.

With

Clarence Williams III Joe Torry Wings Hauser Anthony Griffith Michael Massee Tom Wright
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