Tales from the Hood’s promotional material spoiled so much of the movie it was a little harder to appreciate at the time of its release. Now, twenty years later, I’ve had enough time to forget the key moments and shocking reveals, of which there are plenty. Today I think it’s one of the best movies I’ve ever featured on 31 Days of Gore. The title makes it sound fun and hokey, along the lines of Leprechaun in the Hood, but this Spike Lee production is dead serious and infectiously angry.
Which isn’t to say it isn’t fun. Bad people get exactly what they deserve, true to its roots in EC horror, but my goodness. The bad people in this movie are really bad. Maybe that’s why the vengeance scenes are so delicious.
My problem with Society was it lost its bite when it gave us the Hollywood ending. I had the same problem with Minority Report, an otherwise perfect movie which turned yellow at the end. When you take issues as serious as these and tack on a happy ending, you’ve diluted your message. The endings for each of the stories in this anthology are anything but safe, which is exactly the way horror ought to be.
In the container story, three gang members meet with a mortician (Clarence Williams III) in South Central, lured by the promise of a big drug score. But first, the mortician wants to tell them four stories about police brutality, domestic abuse, racist politicians, and black-on-black crime. With most anthology films, you’re lucky if you get one great story, let alone two, but Tales from the Hood starts strong and finishes strong.
In the first story the mortician tells, the police are the monsters. In the second story, a mother’s abusive boyfriend (David Alan Grier) is the monster; a little boy actually sees him as a demonic presence who creeps into his room at night, drunk and angry. In the third story, Corbin Bernsen plays a monstrous politician with ties to the KKK; the former plantation he lives on is haunted by voodoo dolls. The final story told by the mortician is reminiscent of A Clockwork Orange; Rosalind Cash plays a scientist who uses behavioral modification in an attempt to reform a nasty gang member.
There are so many great moments in all of the stories: David Alan Grier is truly terrifying; the politician clinging to (and literally hiding behind) the American flag; the unflinching look at gang violence set to gangsta rap… it’s a movie that just keeps building momentum as it moves along, crucifying (sometimes literally) whoever it damn well pleases. The conclusion of the container story is probably the weakest aspect of the movie, if only because it resorts to terrible looking CGI. Otherwise, it’s a perfect ending in the sense it’s not a happy one.
This isn’t just a great horror movie, it’s a great piece of fantasy.