Tales from the Hood Blu-ray
Director: Rusty Cundieff
Screenwriter: Rusty Cundieff, Darin Scott
Cast: Corbin Bernsen, Rosalind Cash, David Alan Grier, Anthony Griffith, Paula Jai Parker, Joe Torry, Clarence Williams III
Distributor: Scream Factory
Rated R | 98 Minutes
Release Date: April 18, 2017
“Don’t worry. You’ll get the shit. You’ll be knee-deep in the shit.”
Co-written and directed by Rusty Cundieff (Chappelle’s Show) and executive-produced by Spike Lee (Do the Right Thing), 1995’s Tales from the Hood is a horror anthology that presents four black-centric horror stories centered on police brutality, domestic abuse, racism, and gang violence.
The anthology’s frame narrative – the wraparound that connects the four stories – involves a trio of South Central drug dealers, Stack (Joe Torry), Ball (De’Aundre Bonds), and Bulldog (Samuel Monroe Jr.), arriving at Simms’ Funeral Home to buy drugs from Mr. Simms (Clarence Williams III, Purple Rain), the mortuary’s eccentric owner.
Simms says that he found the stash of drugs, or “the shit” as the dealers call it, in an alley and has stored them deep inside the funeral home for safekeeping. He asks the dealers to help him unload the drugs and, as the four make their way through the bowels of the old mortuary, relates stories about some of his recent “customers.”
The first story, “Rogue Cop Revelation,” stars Wings Hauser, Michael Massee, and Duane Whitaker as racist, corrupt cops who brutally murder Martin Moorehouse (Tom Wright), a city councilman and black rights activist on a crusade to eliminate police corruption in Los Angeles. Martin doesn’t stay dead for long, however. Resurrected, the undead councilman seeks revenge on the cops who killed him.
In the second segment, “Boys Do Get Bruised,” Brandon Hammond stars as Walter Johnson, a gifted, sensitive kid who shows up at school one day with bruises on his face. Walter’s teacher (Cundieff), notices the bruises and asks what happened, and the shy Walter claims that he was attacked by a monster. The monster, as it is revealed, is his mother’s abusive boyfriend, Carl (David Alan Grier), who routinely beats Walter and his mother with a belt. Don’t worry, Carl gets his in the end.
The third tale, “KKK Comeuppance,” follows a racist senator and former Ku Klux Klan member (Corbin Bernsen) who has set up his campaign office in an old slave plantation. It turns out that the plantation is haunted by the spirit of a hoodoo witch who imbued an army of wooden dolls with the tortured souls of slaves. Armed with a shotgun and draped in the American flag, the hate-filled senator attempts to rid the plantation of these “Negro dolls” before they tear him apart.
In “Hard-Core Convert,” the final story, Crazy K (Lamont Bentley) is a psychotic gang member who has murdered countless African Americans without remorse. After being locked away in prison, K is recruited by Dr. Cushing (Rosalind Cash, The Omega Man) to participate in an experimental rehabilitation program that will transform him into an upstanding citizen. Cushing assures K that if he can accept responsibility for his actions, he can be redeemed, but if K refuses to change his ways, he will be doomed to suffer the same fate as his victims.
Inspired by the Amicus Productions horror anthologies of the ’60s and ’70s, Tales from the Hood remains an incredibly relevant piece of genre filmmaking that, like Jordan Peele’s recent breakout hit, Get Out, has a lot to say about race relations in America. And like Get Out, it can be enjoyed as a straight-forward fright flick, or it can be more deeply appreciated as social commentary. Using the anthology format, Cundieff’s film excels in that each story is interesting on its own, but is reinforced by a cohesive framing narrative that connects everything in a very satisfying way.
The real standout of Tales from the Hood is Clarence Williams III’s memorable performance as Mr. Simms. Known for his roles in The Mod Squad, I’m Gonna Git You Sucka, Purple Rain, and Half Baked, Williams is fully committed to playing the off–kilter mortician here, and it’s his dedication to the part that elevates the script and gives its words weight. I’d love to see a follow-up that brought back Williams and commented on today’s issues, with stories from Peele, Ava DuVernay, Ernest Dickerson, and other black filmmakers.
As for Scream Factory’s Blu-ray release, Tales from the Hood is presented in 1080p high-definition widescreen (1.85:1) with a DTS-HD Master Audio Stereo soundtrack. As someone who has only seen Cundieff’s film on HBO back in the day, this new transfer is impressive, with bright, crisp colors and solid black levels. If you’re a fan of this ’90s throwback, you’ll be extremely happy with Scream Factory’s Tales from the Hood (Collector’s Edition); it’s another definitive disc from a company known for delivering high quality releases of forgotten genre films. For more information about this release’s special features, keep reading!
This Collector’s Edition features an audio commentary with writer-director Rusty Cundieff, as well as a newly produced featurette titled, “Welcome to Hell: The Making of Tales from the Hood” (56:13). This documentary features interviews with Cundieff, producer/writer Darin Scott, actors Corbin Bernsen, Wings Hauser, and Anthony Griffith, special effects supervisor Kenneth Hall, and doll effects supervisors Charles Chiodo and Edward Chiodo (Killer Klowns from Outer Space, Critters). There’s also a vintage “making of” featurette, original theatrical trailer and TV spots, and a still gallery.
In comparison to other Scream Factory releases, where you might have a new “making of” documentary followed by several shorter, more specific featurettes, this release really only has the one big featurette. At nearly an hour in length, however, “Welcome to Hell” provides an exhaustive look at the conception and production of the film and answers just about every question you’d have about Cundieff’s anthology flick.
The Tales from the Hood Collector’s Edition is now available at Amazon.