THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan
"TALES FROM THE HOOD"
When it was released in 1995, there had never been anything quite like Tales from the Hood. There really hasn't been anything like it since, either, except for Jordan Peele's current box office smash Get Out. In fact, the two would make one heck of a double feature. Both are horror movies that incorporate socially relevant themes related to race. Scream Factory, clearly recognizing the importance of Tales from the Hood, releases it in a Collector's Edition Blu-ray on April 18, with the exemplary bonus content fans have come to expect from their titles.
This horror anthology was directed by Rusty Cundieff, who first broke onto the scene with the rap comedy Fear of a Black Hat. Three young drug dealers make their way to a funeral home thinking they will be doing a deal with the owner, Mr. Simms (Clarence Williams III, going wonderfully over the top). Instead, the creepy mortician tells them the stories of four different people who have ended up in his caskets.
The first of those tales involves a black civil rights leader who exacts beyond-the-grave revenge against the white cops who killed him. The second has a little boy using his drawings to fight back against an abusive stepfather (David Alan Grier). Segment three is probably the most entertaining, as it finds a former KKK member-turned-politician (Corbin Bernsen) being stalked by dolls that are inhabited by the souls of former slaves. The final section, on the other hand, is the most horrific. A gangbanger is subjected to an experimental “scared straight” procedure that subjects him to images of dead black men and women, from the days of public lynchings to modern-day gang violence.
All four of the stories differ in tone – some are darkly comic, others outright gruesome – yet they share a thoughtful quality. Each one addresses some kind of relevant issue: racist cops, domestic violence, people who inexcusably cling to the ideals of the Jim Crow South, and black-on-black killings. What happens in them is appropriately eerie. More vitally, they give you something to think about. Despite having been released 22 years ago, none of the tales have lost their sting. They hold on to their urgency, making every bit as much of an impact now as they did then.
Tales from the Hood ends with a shock twist involving Mr. Simms that contains one of the most quotable horror lines of dialogue from the '90s. While there are admittedly a few rough edges in the film (mostly budgetary), there's no doubt that this is something of a landmark genre picture. Inventively conceived and fearlessly executed, Tales from the Hood deserves your time and attention.
Tales from the Hood comes with a nice assortment of supplemental features. First and foremost is “Welcome to Hell,” a one-hour making-of retrospective documentary. Rusty Cundieff and co-writer Darin Scott discuss the film's genesis, why they chose the horror format to address social themes, and the public reception to their work, among other things. Actors Corbin Bernsen, Wings Hauser, and Anthony Griffith offer reflections on their sections of the movie. Special effects team members Kenneth Hall, Charles Chiodo, and Edward Chiodo are also on hand to talk about the creation of the practically-achieved visuals. This is an entertaining, informative look back.
A six-minute vintage making-of feature is also here. While obviously shorter and less substantive, it's still fun to see. Added bonus: an appearance by producer Spike Lee. The original theatrical trailer, some nifty TV spots, and a fairly extensive photo gallery round out the package.
Scream Factory has another winner on its hands with Tales from the Hood. Seeing this groundbreaking movie get such deferential treatment is great. The honor is well-deserved.
For more information on this and other titles, please visit the Scream Factory website.
Tales from the Hood is rated R for graphic brutal violence and strong language. The running time is 1 hour and 38 minutes.
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