Back in 1995, the horror anthology Tales from the Hood was released, a film which told different horror stories primarily taking place within the black community. The film is a deeply intelligent movie with commentary on systemic racism from all levels that is severely underrated or underseen by mainstream audiences. Now, the filmmakers have returned with Tales from the Hood 2, and in a society where many of the issues written about in 1995 seem more prevalent than ever, this sequel has plenty to say…
…Both director Rusty Cundieff (Chappelle’s Show) and writer Darin Scott (From a Whisper to a Scream) return, with each contributing as a director and writer this time around. Tales from the Hood 2 follows a similar structure to the original, with four horror vignettes reminiscent of the style of EC comics, all within a wraparound story, which this time has the wonderful as always Keith David as Mr. Simms, a man brought in by a republican group to share stories with a government project called Robo Patriot, a robot programmed to automatically identify criminals and those with the potential to “harm America”. Not exactly the creepy wrap around from the original which had three gangbangers visiting an old mansion inhabited by the devilish Clarence Williams III, but it gets the job done.
Tales from the Hood stands out for a number of reasons, but many would argue that it is the powerful themes and messaging which made it unforgettable for many viewers. Tales from the Hood 2 is no different. Regretfully, not much has changed in America since 1995 regarding racism, and the filmmakers do not hold back whatsoever in expressing their frustration throughout the film. We are treated to a variety of stories, ranging from vengeful dolls to possession, dates gone wrong, and angry ghosts, and, like the original film, all are entertaining on varying levels. But, also like the first film, each of these stories is more than their basic premise, touching on societal issues such as racism perpetuated by white ignorance, black on black crime, black voter suppression, plus there are even nods to more modern groups and ideas, like Black Lives Matter, the #MeToo Movement, and even a mention of “fake news”. Tales from the Hood 2 is not as powerful as the original, but once again Cundieff and Scott flex an ability to scare their audience and give them a good time, while also leaving them with the gut wrenching, all too real horror of what modern America was, is, and hopefully will not always be.
Unlike last time though, a chunk of the messaging in Tales from the Hood 2 may be too on the nose for some viewers. There is no subtlety here. Like I mentioned, Cundieff and Scott do not hold back their anger whatsoever, letting characters lay out exactly what is wrong with America, including one story where Creighton Thomas, while being beaten by a pimp (Martin Bats Bradford), explains that the black community needs to stop killing each other and start standing up for each other so their future generations don’t have to live like this. Then of course there’s the obvious tongue-in-cheek commentary on white ignorance, like a dumb white girl (Alexandria DeBerry) breaking into a black history museum called the Museum of Negrosity, just so she can steal a doll which she is told harbors the anger over hundreds of years of slavery, all because she thinks it’s cute, and it’s one of those moments where you can only sigh at how realistic the ignorance is. I mostly enjoyed the in your face commentary, because so much of it holds an important relevance to our time which should be experienced, but some may not appreciate the bombardment.
Despite the heavy-hitting issues, Tales from the Hood 2 still manages to be massively entertaining, with everything from outrageous gore and violence to not so politically correct humor. In fact, the violence arguably matches the commentary blow for blow, with kills and effects that will make even the most hardened horror fan cringe. Many of these deaths, while over the top and bloody as hell, have a slight rage to them, and rightfully so, including one involving a whip that disturbed the hell out of me. Tales from the Hood 2 is like that dark joke with a little bit of truth to it, enjoyable but uncomfortable all at once. The practical effects are straight out of the 80s. This is as nasty and gory as it gets. Cundieff and Scott have a knack for understanding of the genre, and they don’t skimp one bit on the insane bloodshed. After all, Tales from the Hood 2 is a film about violence and chaos, so it only makes sense that there is so much of it within these tales. The one negative? As with the original, the CGI (though hardly used, thankfully) is straight up awful, appearing as if it was done using Windows Movie Maker from the nineties. At least with the original, it WAS the nineties when those cheap CG effects were put on screen, so it made sense then.
Coupled with loads of dark humor, Tales from the Hood 2 seems to aim for comedy a bit more this time around. While it would be a stretch to say that every segment in the original Tales from the Hood took itself seriously, the horror was always the main focus. In this sequel, only one story involving a massive killer doll stands out as anything you would call “scary”, while the rest are far more slapstick by nature, drenched in layers of bloody cheese. Tales from the Hood 2 will make you tear your guts laughing, and is so much fun that you can ignore many of its flaws. In that sense, much of Tales from the Hood 2 is like watching old episodes of Tales from the Crypt. As in the original film, the fourth story is the only one that plays it straight, ignoring laughs or horror and going straight for the jugular with a direct message to the black community about supporting each other.
The only problem with some of the stories in Tales from the Hood 2 is that, though most are enjoyable, and especially pleasing to gore fans, each relies on a twist that feels predictable, illogical to the point that it is nonsensical, or both. That wasn’t the case in the original. I’m not saying that there is something logical about a kid killing his step dad by tearing up a drawing of him like in the first film, but the original Tales from the Hood had stories that flowed well and “fit” neatly together. In the case of Tales from the Hood 2, so many of the segments rely on an abundance of coincidences and unexplainable absurdity which hardly feels natural to the story itself. Which is disappointing, because the filmmakers show they still have plenty of creative juices flowing through the tank, in that the dialogue is clever and punchy and a majority of the kills are inventive and beyond enjoyable.
Tales from the Hood 2 is not on the level of the original, and to be fair, that’s a goal that the filmmakers could never have set out to attain. This sequel may not be as frightening, or poignant, with entirely unique stories and surprising twists at every turn, but where Tales from the Hood 2 lacks in those areas, it makes up for with over the top entertainment to soften the blow of the all too real horrors facing America which the film pulls the curtain away from. Tales from the Hood 2 isn’t perfect, but damnit, it’s worth every second as a movie which has something to offer beyond its two-hour run time.
Tales from the Hood 2 is available now on VOD.
By Matt Konopka