Welcome back to the dark streets. Our look at urban horror continues with a look at an influential example of the genre. It used the horror lens to highlight the real problems facing African-Americans, and how those problems are more frightening than any monster. So today, we take a look at TALES FROM THE HOOD.

Now, TALES FROM THE HOOD is an anthology, much like it’s namesake TALES FROM THE CRYPT. So to fully analyze it, we’ll be looking at each individual story and the themes surrounding it. However, there is a framing/wraparound story (WELCOME TO MY MORTUARY). Telling that one would spoil the ending. However, it sets the tale with three gang members recovering drugs from a local funeral parlor. However, it’s undertaker, Mr. Simms has some unusual bodies in tonight and a story for each one.

 Rogue Cop Revelation

Image courtesy of cinapse.com

TALES FROM THE HOOD begins with a look at racism in the police force. A young African-American rookie, Clarence, witnesses his fellow officers viciously beat a man. Clarence realizes it’s African-American city councilman, Martin Moorehouse. Moorehouse has been attempting to fight corruption on the force. The cops pacify Clarence by saying they are taking Moorhouse to the hospital. Instead, they hid drugs in Moorehouse’s car, shoot him with heroin, and then drive the car off a pier. The aftermath destroys Moorehouse’s reputation. Unable to prove what happened, Clarence resigns. One year later, he dreams of Moorhouse telling him to bring the cops to his grave.

This first entry is solid, but still a somewhat formulaic revenge story. That said, it gets its theme across quite well. Like THE PEOPLE UNDER THE STAIRS, the racist cops are almost cartoonish stereotypes but still threatening. The story also indicates that at least one officer acts out of a misguided sense of loyalty to the badge, which adds a new dimension. There is also some good makeup on zombie Moorehouse, and some creative scares involving syringes and a graffiti mural. However, the most chilling moment is the ending, where Moorehouse confronts Clarence with one question– ‘Where were you when I needed you, brother?”

Boys Do Get Bruised

Image courtesy of desangrehastalosrodillas.blogspot.com

The second TALES FROM THE HOOD story deals with a more universal subject in abuse. A young boy named Walter comes to school with bruises. His teacher, Mr. Garvey, is concerned, but the boy claims it’s the work of ‘the monster.’ Walter speaks of the monster constantly, drawing the creature over and over in an attempt to gain control over it. Garvey is concerned enough to speak to Walter’s mother, but he also meets Walter’s stepfather — a man with the word ‘monster’ tattooed on his arm. The young teacher realizes what’s happening, but as the stepfather attacks, Walter shows just how much power his drawings have.

This TWILIGHT ZONE-esque story is one of the best stories in the film. Walter’s situation is heartbreaking to watch, and it’s easy to find ourselves cheering on Garvey as he investigates. Rusty Cundieff stated he saw the supernatural as an escape to the problems depicted in the film, and this story nails that concept. It’s also worth noting that Walter and his family are depicted as a more middle class, and Garvey works at a private school. Its a break from depicting abusive African-American parents in a ghetto setting, but also a stark reminder that abuse can happen at any class level.

KKK Comeuppance

U.S. Senator (and former Klansmen) Duke Metger sets up his reelection campaign on the site of a former slave plantation. Amid the many protesters at Metger’s door is a man stating that the ‘souls’ of the house will come for Metger. Metger relates the story to his aide.

When the slaves were emancipated after the Civil War, the original owner killed them all rather than see them walk free. Legend states that a voodoo witch placed the tormented souls into small dolls which remain somewhere on the property. Metger ignores the stories, but then he starts seeing one doll follow him everywhere.

Image courtesy of pophorror.com

This story is also straightforward but is effective thanks to the performances and special effects. Corbin Benson plays Metger with a slimy charm; he’s a terrible racist, but there is something fascinating about watching him at the same time. The dolls are done very well; they are depicted in a painting, which goes blank as they come forth. The dolls are designed as ugly African-American caricatures, but that works in their favor as they grow more demonic over time. It’s also interesting that they murder Metger’s African-American ‘image maker’ first as if they see him as a sell-out of sorts. Again, a somewhat predictable story done effectively.

Hard-Core Convert

The final story in TALES FROM THE HOOD acts as the most sobering of all. Gangster Crazy-K receives multiple life sentences for murder. He gets a chance to change his sentence from Dr. Cushing. The doctor brings K to a new facility. He undergoes dark rehabilitative measures. He is jailed next to a white supremacist, who mocks K for ‘helping’ him since K has only murdered other African-Americans.

Cushing further subjects K to CLOCKWORK ORANGE-esque visual therapy, where K sees images of violence against African-Americans. Finally, K experiences a sensory deprivation tank, where he meets the souls of the people he has killed by accident because of his actions. Cushing implores K to take responsibility for his actions, but he takes another approach. This part of TALES FROM THE HOOD hits the hardest out of them all.

Image courtesy of thecoli.com

There’s no supernatural edge, just a brutal, frank look at black-on-black violence. The speech from the white supremacist is a familiar one, but the idea that it links gang members to Klansmen is frightening. Cushing’s words have an incredible weight and the results have spoken for themselves. Cundieff has stated after the film’s release, many people told him they left or avoided gangs because of Crazy-K.

Yet even K has a moment of sympathy when he talks about his own tortured upbringing shaped him. It shows the horrible truth that people may escape where they come from, but never truly be able to leave.


TALES FROM THE HOOD stands equally as a horror film, and as social commentary. The stories are strong, the morals and thoughts it shows us are chilling, and it feels current even now. The issues it raised still exist, and need to be examined in the real world because this is horror that many people live with every day.

So go pick up the Shout Factory Special Edition (while avoiding the recent sequel at all costs), and get some thoughts in with your scares. Meanwhile, we’ll be setting up for some lighter fare next time. Maybe a story about a boy and his dog…

One Comment

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    October 22, 2018 at 7:01 am

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