Distributor: Universal Studios
Horror is back in the hood! The sequel to the groundbreaking original film Tales From the Hood reunites executive producer Spike Lee (Honorary Academy Award winner) and writers/directors/producers Rusty Cundieff and Darin Scott for an all-new gripping, horrifying and oftentimes devilishly comical anthology. Keith David stars as a contemporary Mr. Simms to tell bloodcurdling stories about lust, greed, pride and politics through tales with demonic dolls, possessed psychics, vengeful vixens and historical ghosts. Mr. Simms’ haunting stories will make you laugh…while you scream.
(Warning: Spoilers abound.)
Of all the horror films in the world seemingly the least likely to receive a sequel, 1995’s Tales from the Hood tops that list. That it’s coming 23 years later adds to the already unexpected decision to revisit the concept of a racially- and socially-infused horror anthology for modern audiences. The creative team behind the original film, director/co-writers Rusty Cundieff and Darin Scott, and executive producer Spike Lee, all return for a second dose of anthological horror, this time hosted by genre legend Keith David (taking over for Clarence Williams III).
From the get-go, Tales from the Hood 2 is established on a very shaky and corny premise: the mysterious Portifoy Simms (Keith David), who credits himself as the world’s foremost storyteller, is summoned by the U.S. government to tell stories to a robot (I’m not kidding) in order to enhance its decision-making capabilities. And also from the get-go, Tales from the Hood 2 isn’t willing to ease into its subtext: the man in charge of this secret robot, a stern, Mike Pence-looking caucasian man, is immediately racist directly to Simms’ face, even falling back on the cliched use of “your kind.” Simms lets this go by mostly uncontested, because he knows his super scary stories are going to somehow ruin all the lives of evil racist white people everywhere, so with each dismissive and hateful comment, Simms has a story to go along with it. Said Evil White Racist Man is also a sexual harasser, which allows Tales 2 to include a #MeToo reference with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer:
“He treats all the women who work here like that.”
Clever, fellas. Real clever.
What makes Tales 2 so disappointing is that, strictly from the standpoint of sheer entertainment, it looks cheap, not helped by its cast of total unknowns (and Keith David), but it also pales in comparison to its predecessor in every way. David is great as the storyteller, but never reaches the maddening heights of Clarence Williams III, who so attacked his role head-on that he would conjure heavy sheens of sweat during his most fiery moments. Also, despite the tongue-in-cheek title and marketing campaign (a sunglasses-wearing skull with a gold tooth, which returns for this entry as well), the first Tales from the Hood was not at all going for humor, unless of course you count the gallows kind. Corbin Bernsen’s segment from the original was funny because of the outlandish situation, not because the film at any point was elbowing you in the side and saying, “Eh? Eh??” Meanwhile, in Tales from the Hood 2, a white racist girl not meaning to be racist ends up having sex with a vintage racist doll called a Golly Gee meant to offensively represent an African American, which gropes at her ass in super close-up, only to have its devil spawn: many many more Golly Gee dolls. And then there’s the story about a Tinder-esque double-date spearheaded by two practiced rapists who plan on drugging their dates and recording the sex crimes they’re way too excited to commit before an obvious plot twist reveals their female dates to be vampires? Vampires who were ALSO PREYING ON VICTIMS? Can you stand the subtext? And are we really still doing vampire twist endings after previous anthology 20-year-old series like Tales from the Crypt and Are You Afraid of the Dark? already did the same?
From the onset, the mere idea of a Tales from the Hood 2 didn’t seem like a good idea, but Scream Factory’s recent reissue of the film on Blu really made me realize two things: one, it was far better than I remembered, and two, it handled prescient issues with a more sure footing and an appreciated sincerity. Sadly, even though it’s coming up on 23 years old, the stories from the original, which focused on black-on-black violence, racist police officers, and outwardly racist politicians still feels more applicable to our modern societal and political landscape than its brand new sequel, which feels dated right out of the date and in way too much of a hurry to tackle every social issue currently plaguing us.
I’m hopeful that the release of this title will attract an audience to its far superior predecessor, and I’m also hopeful that they won’t assume it looks like its sequel: a cheap looking production peppered with unsubtle storytelling and broad humor.
Tales of the Hood 2 has one thing going for it and it’s named Keith David; by film’s end, when he reveals himself to be the devil (or something — assumedly the same whatever something that Williams III was), you can’t help but smile at how silly it all is, but then that moment is ruined when you realize the previous 90 minutes, which was supposed to be horrifically fun but also socially responsible, was just as silly.