Morbidly Beautiful

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An essential horror comedy and black horror film, “Tales From the Hood” is a 1990s anthology film that is just as relevant and entertaining today as ever.

Tales from the Hood is a very nostalgic film for me. I first saw this film in the late 90s. I loved it then, and I love it now. The mashup of urban street comedy and stereotypical horror tropes makes for a film with a certain undeniable charm and feel to it.

The first few minutes are a microcosm of everything to happen later: heavy sardonic horror themes, ridiculously great jokes and mocking dialogue, and black culture. The horror feels like Halloween the way you’d always imagine it: eerie old houses, cobwebs everywhere, organ music. The cliched black thugs appear, apparently losing their way to the set of Menace II Society or some other dramatic film.

The friends are Bulldog, Ball and Stack, and they’re heading into a funeral home for a supposed drug deal. We meet the funeral director and show-stealer Mr. Simms, played by Clarence Williams III (Half Baked), who tells the three men different stories of how people in his funeral home met their demise.

Who doesn’t love an anthology film? As these stories are told at the funeral home, that too becomes a full story, with a twist ending all its own.

Segment one of Tales from the Hood has rookie black cop Clarence witnessing three awful, drug dealing white policemen stop and beat black activist and politician Martin Moorehouse. First segment in, and we witness white cops beating on an innocent black man. Times sure haven’t changed, huh? Clarence has a crisis of faith, but finds possible retribution when Moorehouse speaks to him from the grave and tells Clarence “Bring them to me…”

Segment two is a refreshingly dramatic and realistic story of young boy Walter who is haunted at nights by a monster in his closet. Walter’s teacher Richard, played by the director of the film Rusty Cundieff (Chappelle’s Show), takes notice and soon tries to resolve the situation. This is a great affecting story, and it’s not straight horror. A different feel altogether. David Alan Grier does a tremendous job in an unlikable part.

Segment three is a Puppetmaster-inspired take on dolls out for vengeance. Corbin Bernsen plays a thick-headed white politician, Duke Metger. In our introduction to him, Duke spouts racially charged comments to his publicist. Duke is living in a mansion that used to be part of a plantation, a site where many black people were killed, and now it’s said their spirits live in the house, in the shape of little dolls. As his racist tirades continue, the dolls get summoned to shut him up.

I was surprised to find that segment four was one I had completely forgotten about. It’s the story of Crazy K, a criminal who is shot and critically injured by some other black gang. He is given a second chance through Dr. Cushing, and he experiences a hilariously sexual Clockwork Orange type of torture, the end goal of which seems to point towards a race war.

Tales from the Hood is an all-out classic, essential horror comedy.

It was refreshing to see a movie wherein almost every single part is played by a black person. Often times, when there is a white character, they are shady or evil. The diversity between the plots is great, and the effects are all practical and good looking on a slim budget. There is no reason to not hail this as a classic in horror and a classic in Black film.

Add this to your list of Essential Black Horror Films, and click here to find 13 other influential black horror films you need to see. Black History Month may have just ended, but these are films we need to celebrate all year long.

Tales From the Hood is currently available through most streaming platforms, or you can pick up the Collector’s Blu-ray from Scream Factory. 

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