This mid-nineties portmanteau takes the usual formula (a linking story and a handful of short horror tales) but puts it in an unusual ‘urban’ setting. As such Tales From The Hood is an interesting diversion from what we’ve become used to here in our trip through the portmanteau. The closest thing to it might well be Grim Prairie Tales which used a cowboy setting but this works better as you get that ’90s Spike Lee attitude, and appropriate soundtrack, mixed with some fairly experimental visuals.
(MILD SPOILERS AHEAD!)
The linking story sees three drug-dealers (Stack, Ball and Bulldog) who are either trying to buy some drugs from, or rob, a creepy mortuary owner (it’s a little unclear as everyone is very angry and swearing a lot) who also happens to be a mad as a badger with two tails and no head. As Mr. Simms takes them to ‘the shit’ he tells them a few tales. Seemingly with the intention of pissing them off.
The opener is ‘Rogue Cop Revelation’ is pretty hard-hitting and tells the tale of three corrupt cops who terrorise and kill a local civil rights leader, Martin Moorhouse, while a young black rookie cop, Clarence Smith, looks on in horror.
Unable to reconcile the events of that night, Clarence quits his job but is visited in his dreams by Martin who tells him to bring the cops to him.
The cops go to the grave to find a confused and drunken Clarence talking about that fateful night. The cops are all absolute pricks though and aren’t moved by Clarence’s guilt and decide to urinate on Martin’s grave.
Big mistake. After one cop is pulled into the grave (by his knackers), Martin arises from the grave and puts on one of the best ever angry zombie performances ever. Stalking the cops (including The Crow’s Michael Massee) through the streets before killing them in some fun, inventive ways.
This is a strong opening story that sets the tone for the movie while offering up some big scares and action.
Next up is ‘Boys Do Get Bruised’ which is a ‘monster in the closet’ story that shows young boy Walter being terrorised by an unseen force that lurks behind a door in his bedroom.
After a rough first day at school, his teacher, Richard, takes an interest in him and is worried when Walter tells him about the monster. Suspecting more is afoot, the teacher visits him at home and meets his secretive and inappropriately slutty mum. When Walter’s stepdad arrives, things get a little heated and Richard leaves but comes back when he hears the stepdad beating his family, revealing that he is the monster in Walter’s imagination.
This tale of domestic disharmony is powerful enough but its conclusion throws in some supernatural weirdness that echos Tom Baker’s excellent story in our previous portmanteau, The Vault of Horror. Again, another strong story.
After the very strong first half of the movie, story number three ‘KKK Comeuppance’ is a little bit of a disappointment but still has some good qualities. It tells the story of Duke Metger, a senator in the deep south with a history in the KKK and a lot of angry locals who are angry that he has bought a house that belonged to a slave trader who ended up murdering all his slaves.
A man warns him that ‘the souls’ will be angry with him but is dismissed quickly but when his campaign manager Rhodie dies in a freak accident, he is left rattled.
Eventually he returns to the house and is attacked over and over by a small doll that is apparently possessed by one of the dead slaves. This is all part of an oddly comedic conclusion that is strengthened by some decent stop-motion animation but is just all a bit too slapstick to take seriously.
The final chapter is ‘Hard-core Convert’ which follows Jerome ‘Crazy K’ Johns (so crazy, that he doesn’t know his own initials), a violent gang member who is arrested after a shoot out which arises after he kills a man on the street. He is offered the chance to get out of jail if he takes part in an experimental treatment to rehabilitate him.
After a mixture of baffling psychological treatments and some sensory deprivation, he begins to hallucinate and see his victims including a young girl who was caught, and killed, by his stray bullet.
Will the treatment work and will he accept responsibility for his crimes? You’ll have to watch to find out but don’t get too excited. It’s the weakest part of the film.
With the final segment completed, the film goes back to the mortuary for the final time to see what is up with three drug-dealers and this bizarre Samuel L. Jackson clone that has been chewing the scenery intermittently for the whole movie.
With two good segments, one average one and one that’s just a bit dull and pretentious, this is a pretty decent portmanteau overall and the setting does indeed set it apart from other similar films. The liberal use of ’90s hip hop, early CGI and reasonable practical effects also add a little extra something to the movie. One to check out.