It’s been over twenty years since the original TALES FROM THE HOOD, the socially conscious anthology horror film from minds of Rusty Cundieff and Darin Scott. The original film took on themes of police brutality, child and spousal abuse, and simply being black in America through devilishly clever E.C. Comics inspired segments. Unfortunately it’s a rough time here in the States, (arguably worse for everyone in the mid ‘90s) but if there’s one bright spot, audiences are finally getting TALES FROM THE HOOD 2 which confronts social issues of the day with that with a wry sense of humor and twists and turns that would make William Gaines proud.
In an inspired bit of casting, Keith David takes over as Mr. Simms, the “crypt keeper” of the film portrayed by Clarence Williams III. Simms is recuited by Dummas Beach-a corrupt old white guy-who plans on utilizing Simms’ tales from the hood in order to program a ROBOCOP inspired “Patriotbot” to track down the criminal element. David commands the screen each time he shows up, gleefully chewing the scenery. Anyone with fond memories of the original will chuckle giddily each time he exclaims “the shit.”
What follows are four segments (all directed by either Cundieff or Scott and written by the duo) tackling issues of racism, date rape, the consequences of violence, greed, lust, and being black in America. Great comedy and horror come from great pain as well as political strife, and America certainly has an over abundance of insecurity these days. The original TALES FROM THE HOOD was wonderfully on the nose when it came to its themes (it really made me feel smart at 15 years old because I “got it”) and the sequel doles out more of the same. The opening segment, “Good Golly” (directed by Cundieff) throwsback to a segment from the original film (which featured a cabal of manical dolls) and treats the audience to a gloriously offensive killer Golliwog dispatching a trio of twenty-somethings attempting to rob a roadside museum.
The next two segments (my personal favorites) come from director Darin Scott. Scott’s admiration for the Amicus anthologies and Vault Of Horror comic books shine through. First up, a gang of criminals recruit a phony television medium to contact a dead pimp in order to find out where he stashed all of his cash. Bryan Batt (Sal from Mad Men) turns in a gangbusters performance, channeling Tony Curtis in THE MANITOU as the smug, con man psychic who ends up-for better or worse-realizing his potential.The follow up is a wild commentary on online dating and date rape with a wonderfully classic twist that would please the Vault Keeper or The Old Witch themselves. The TALES FROM THE HOOD films are perhaps unfairly labeled as dealing solely with black issues and race, but both the original and this sequel feature strong feminist messages as well. Scott’s segments are arguably the most fun of the bunch, but both of the directors deftly blend over the top horror, at times offensive (other times very silly) comedy, and social commentary (the makers of the latest PUPPET MASTER entry should take note). Despite confronting some heavy issues, the voice of the filmmakers come through, offering a spoonful of sugar and buckets of blood to help the medicine go down. Tone is important, and the fearless filmmakers nailed it.
The fourth and final segment features Cundieff in the directors chair and is certainly the heaviest of them all. A black Republican is forced to reckon with a history of American racism through supernatural means that may kill his unborn child and change history in a Twilight Zone inspired twist. After the wild, over the top fun of the previous three segments, this final tale is a mostly somber experience, providing very few laughs as it incorporates real life victims of violent racism. It’s a smart and thought provoking way to finish things up after all the bonkers silliness that preceded.
But that’s not all, Keith David gets to put a button on everything, revealing his true character (audiences will be able to figure it out off the bat). The final moments of the wrap around segment feature fire, brimstone, and a wonderfully silly looking robot wreaking havoc on a Donald Trump proxy. TALES FROM THE HOOD 2 is expertly paced with each segment delivering the goods and never overstaying its welcome. It’s fun, funny, thought provoking, and at times wonderfully weird. Cundieff and Scott are original voices in the world of horror cinema,and hopefully two decades after the original film, they will finally get their due. TALES FROM THE HOOD 2 is indeed, the shit.