John Ary here with another installment of Ain’t It Scary Reviews. Today, we’re watching an anthology of terrifying tales featuring a soulful funeral director.
It’s rare that a horror movie’s main motivation is to teach rather than scare. Tales from the Hood sets up a series of parables aimed squarely at young African-American males. Each story in the anthology preaches a message while using the tried and true tactics of its horror forefathers.
The movie begins with three young men, presumably gang members entering a funeral parlor run by a seemingly crazy mortician. He’s like the soul godfather version of the cryptkeeper or Rod Serling, telling horrific stories to the three gang members about the bodies in the coffins. The violent teens just want the drugs that are hidden somewhere in the funeral home, but the mortician has other plans for these thugs. The four stories presented involve weighty issues like police brutality, child abuse, racism, and black on black violence. Each parable feels like a well-made Twilight Zone episode, choosing to scare the audience with cutting social commentary rather than obsessive gore. The stories themselves don’t feel overly original and for the most part, you see the ending coming from a mile away, but they are effective and end with a satisfying results.
The movie benefits from having some familiar faces show up throughout. Wings Hauser plays a racist corrupt cop to a tee. David Allen Grier gets the chance to play against type as an abusive father and husband. Corbin Bernsen nails his role as a former KKK politician. Rosalind Cash brings a powerful presence to the screen as a behavioral scientist performing secret tests on gang members. But Clarence Williams the Third will be the one actor most fondly remembered for his role as Mr. Simms, the undertaker with a chilling secret. He keeps the proceedings fun and helps lighten the mood after each macabre story.
Although Spike Lee is an executive producer on the movie, the real force behind it is Rusty Cundieff. He wrote and directed it and also starred in one of the tales. Cundieff never lets the lessons trump the horror. Even if you don’t care about weighty issues like the need for positive male role models, the thug life or what it means to be an Uncle Tom, the film can still be enjoyed as an earnest horror anthology, full of monsters, possessed dolls, lab experiments and the undead.
Tales from the Hood is currently streaming on Netflix. It’s also available on DVD here.
Check back in tomorrow for another Ain’t It Scary Review as a group of Nazis learn the catastrophic secrets of a mysterious stone structure during World War II.
Here’s a look back at the Ain’t It Scary Review installments that you might have missed:
The Ground Rules to the Project
#1 Son of Frankenstein
#2 Scream, Blacula, Scream!
#3 Black Sabbath
#5 Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon
#6 Invisible Invaders
#7 The Mummy’s Curse
#8 Lord of Illusions
#9 Night of the Demons
#10 Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
#11 The House of the Devil
#12 Dr. Phibes Rises Again!
#14 The Catman of Paris
#17 Werewolf of London
For more video news, reviews and interviews subscribe to the AICN Youtube channel and follow me on Twitter.