I’m almost breaking my rule of “No movies I’ve already seen before” with this one. I have pretty much seen the whole movie before but it was always in bits and pieces and I had never actually sat down to watch the whole thing beginning to end. Tales from the Hood has the classic horror anthology style that movies like Tales from the Darkside use with a central plot being used as a jumping off point to tell multiple stories. Here the conceit is that 3 gang members go to a funeral home to pick up some drugs that the funeral director found in an alley. As they walk through the building, the owner tells the stories of how the various bodies they come across came to be there.
There are four stories and each of them deals with a fear or problem that is faced by those living in the hood. The first story deals with crooked cops. A young, black rookie to the force ends up being witness to several cops that brutally beat and eventually kill a man that was responsible for leading a crusade against the corrupt police. The rookie then quits the force and eventually begin hearing the voice of the dead man. The vengeance from the grave shows that not only are those that do these horrible things to be held accountable but that those that see what happens and do nothing to stop are just as guilty as they are.
The second story is one of domestic violence and the perception of a child. Walter starts school in a new area and one of his teachers notices that he has some bruises that probably didn’t come from getting into fights with the other kids. When asked he says that there’s a monster that attacks him ever since his Dad died. The “monster” is the only defeated when Walter’s teacher gets involved and the fear of him is confronted and destroyed. This is probably the most visceral and uncomfortable of the stories and David Alan Grier, of all people, does a good job of portraying the “monster”. It really does a great job of presenting how much more there is to fear than just monsters.
The third story is one of racism and the recognition of what has happened in the past. We see an ex-KKK member running for Mayor in the south who has his campaign being run out of an old plantation house where the original plantation owner killed all his slaves rather than set them free after the Civil War. Legend has it that the souls of the slaves were put into dolls so that they could watch over the house. This one deals a lot with the idea of reparations and how just because something is in the past doesn’t mean you just ignore it and move on. While probably the cheesiest in terms of CGI dolls, it has a lot of great shots like the politician trying to hide behind the flag as the angry mob of dolls descends upon him.
The last story is one of gangs and the cycle of violence in the ghetto. Crazy K is a gang member that ends up being thrown in jail and offered a way out if he goes through a behavior modification program. Here he meets a white power inmate as his neighbor in the other cell that says he’s alright with K because they both kill black people. K is then forced to face the ghosts of those he has killed and the question of who is to blame for this is brought up. Lots of images of lynchings and the KK are juxtaposed with those of gang violence. It postulates that it is up to the individual to decide if they stop the cycle of violence, regardless of why they started down that path in the first place.
In all, this really tries to pack a lot in to some very short time periods. While a lot of it is done fairly over-the-top, Tales from the Crypt style in a lot of places, I do think it does a good job of really emphasizing that the real horror are the issues that they talk about. The undead and walking dolls are shown fairly comically and the actual issues of racism and so on are dealt with entirely seriously. It also has Clarence Williams III as the funeral home owner and he is just delightful in this, though I would seriously watch him in basically anything. I give this a 4 out of 5 for being able to pull of being both fun and serious.