The BFI are releasing the first two TALES FROM THE HOOD films (the third one has just been released) in a two disc Blu-ray set with a host of extras.
TALES FROM THE HOOD is a genuine surprise. A mid-1990s horror film that embraces the narrative style and comic book setups of previous anthology movies (especially those made by Amicus) while at the same time skilfully employing contemporary African American cultural themes at their core.
Three hoodlums arrive at a mortuary with the promise of a drug deal. They meet the mysterious Mr Simms (Clarence White III) who, with his 1970s-style dress sense, proves to be something of a Dolemite-style cryptkeeper, telling the boys four tales based on the mortuary's current 'residents'.
Violence from white cops, domestic violence, the massacre of slaves, and gang warfare form the basis of the stories, which considering the seriousness of the subject matter are far more entertaining and EC-style than you might expect both in terms of their style of execution and the horrible ends which the perpetrators of the atrocities end up suffering. If you've seen pretty much any Amicus film you'll have guessed the ending, which is still extremely satisfying and embellished with some excellent makeup effects. Director Rusty Cundieff absolutely knows how to film this kind of horror, co-writer and co-producer Darin Scott was one of the team responsible for the superior Vincent Price-starring horror anthology FROM A WHISPER TO A SCREAM and we get a music score from accomplished genre composer Christopher Young. It's therefore a pleasure to watch each tale unfold knowing you're in safe hands (especially as the stories' protagonists very much aren't).
Extras for TALES FROM THE HOOD include Shout Factory's making of documentary from 2017 featuring interviews with Cundieff and Scott as well as stars Corbin Bernsen, Wings Hauser and Anthony Griffith amongst others. There's also a commentary track from Rusty Cundieff, also from 2017.
It wasn't until 2018 that a sequel emerged, this time written and directed by both Rusty Cundieff and Darin Scott. This time Keith David is our storyteller (which he does superbly) and the stories on the whole are rather lighter in touch, at least to begin with. The first, about a human-sized gollywog that goes on the rampage, dangerously skirts the line of being too ridiculous but just about gets away with it if you're forgiving. In the second a gang try to discover where some money has been stashed by a man they've tortured to death, employing a white medium to channel the dead man's spirit. The third is about a date-rape night that goes horribly wrong for the perpetrators. None of these comic book-style stories will prepare you for the fourth segment 'The Sacrifice' which is powerful and affecting, all the more so because of what has gone before. It would not have been out of place in Jordan Peele's new Twilight Zone series and in fact is better than many of the stories in that.
Extras for the second movie include an 18 minute interview with Darin Scott and a substantial 68 minute interview with Rusty Cundieff which looks like it was conducted by Zoom and covers both films in detail.
TALES FROM THE HOOD is an excellent anthology. What's surprising is how good TALES FROM THE HOOD II is, so don't go under the misapprehension that it's been packaged with the first as an 'extra'. Considering that most sequels are terrible, especially ones made over 20 years after their original, and in a decade where we've seen plenty of truly terrible anthology movies it's very much worth watching. An excellent package from the BFI.
TALES FROM THE HOOD I & II is out on Blu-ray from the BFI in a two disc set on Monday 2nd November 2020