Four tales of terror-like shenanigans with a social bent!
1995’s Tales from the Hood is a socially relevant film offering a much-needed perspective, but just as important at the end of the day — it’s also a terrific time at the movies for horror fans. A horror anthology with a focus on black characters and lives it delivers thrills, humor, and commentary in equal measure. Twenty three years later a sequel has arrived with original creators Rusty Cundieff and Darin Scott once again at the helm (along with producer Spike Lee), and while Tales from the Hood 2 a lesser creation there’s still fun to be had.
The eternally wonderful Keith David takes over hosting duties from Clarence Williams III, and he’s as perfect for the job as you could hope. His maniacal glee is so damn appealing that he becomes a liability of sorts as every minute he’s not on the screen leaves you wishing he was. Portifoy Simms (David) is hired by a racist, sexist, white prick behind a booming private prison business to “teach” his latest project — a robot programmed to act as judge, jury, and executioner against criminals — about the worst of human behaviors through the medium of stories. He shares four tales, returning in between and at the very end to impart a warm smile and a hard lesson.
First up is the story of two young friends, one white and one black, who stop at a roadside museum of African American history so the paler of the two can pick up an old-school Golliwog doll. The proprietor rightfully goes off on the two in an attempt to teach them about history and its ongoing ramifications, but you know how young people can be. There’s some rough acting from the youngsters here, but the segment works as education, commentary, and an EC-comics tale of comeuppance. Things go from very serious to playfully dumb to bonkers in short order, and the bloodletting is the gory icing on the cake.
Next is a trio of thugs who accidentally kill an ex-pimp before getting some necessary information from him so they do the next logical thing and kidnap a TV psychic. They force the fraud to connect with the spirit world, but none of them get the outcome they expected. There are some laughs here, but aside from a brief line about black people needing to support each other instead of gunning each other down it doesn’t feel as socially relevant as the first. It’s entertaining though.
Story three is the weakest of the bunch in nearly every way as a pair of date rapists (one black, one white) drug two women (one black, one Asian) with nasty plans for their unconscious forms. Tables are turned, though, when the women are revealed to be less helpless than they seem. This is a one-note tale that you’ve seen a hundred times before, and it fails to deliver anything beyond movement and words. Speaking of which, several minutes of screen time and dialogue are lifted directly from Cards Against Humanity as the foursome plays a few rounds of the popular game to kill time — both theirs and ours.
The final tale returns to the seriousness of the first but leaves the levity and goofy vibe out all together. A black Republican councilman about to vote in support of closing voting locations in black communities sees his life and pregnant white wife shaken by the ghostly arrival of a young Emmett Till. The present-set story plays out against Till’s torture at the hands of white racists in 1955 with the conceit being that the martyr sacrificed for the future and now this man is throwing it away. It gets extremely heavy as the modern world shifts at the possibility of Till not making the sacrifice of his life, and soon others from the past are visiting too. There’s a whiff of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol here, but the lesson isn’t quite as succinct or sharply delivered.
Tales from the Hood 2 is clearly more sincere than subtle — and it’s working on a visibly small budget — but it works well enough as a horror anthology with an agenda beyond fictional horrors.