The sequel that everyone has been waiting for has finally arrived! Yes I’m talking about the sequel to the 1995’s anthology horror film Tales from the Hood, called, well, Tales from the Hood 2. Original director Rusty Cundieff is back, accompanied this time with Darin Scott (director of such classics such as House Party: Tonight’s the Night and Deep Blue Sea 2). Once again viewers are treated with five separate tales of terror, all centered around the struggles of the African-American community.
The following review will be spoiler free.
Directed By: Rusty Cundieff and Darin Scott
Written By: Rusty Cundieff and Darin Scott
Starring: Keith David, Bryan Batt, Alexandria DeBerry, Kendrick Cross, Cat Limket, Kedrick Brown, Andy Cohen with Lou Beatty Jr. and Bill Martin Williams as Dumas Beach
Dumas Beach (Williams) is the owner of the vast majority of America’s private prisons. Now he’s working on a new project: a robot that will protect America’s border from “foreign dangers.” Beach, with his painful lack of imagination has called it the “Robo-patriot.” In order to complete its programming so that it can quicker deduce criminals and general immortality, he hires famed storyteller Portifoy Simms (Keith David). Yes, this premise is absolutely ludicrous, but just like the original, this framing story is the best part of the film.
As expected, Sims tells four tales of terror, each centered on the sinner receiving their divine justice.
Did We Really Need a Sequel to Tales from the Hood?
When discussing classic horror anthologies among cinephiles, it’s unlikely that any of them will mention 1995’s Tales from the Hood as one of them. This particular sub-genre is unfortunately plagued with uneven quality. Usually one or two stories are worthwhile, while the rest simply don’t hold up. A few examples of anthology movies with more or less consistent quality throughout each separate tale are George A. Romero’s Creepshow, Masaki Kobayashi’s Kaidan and Michael Dougherty’s Trick or Treat.
Movies such as Body Bags or the VHS series have a few great segments but they sag in others. Unsurprisingly, the best parts in Body Bags are the ones with John Carpenter as the film’s central host, a perverted zombified coroner. Tales from the Hood suffered some of the same problems, but as you can guess from the title alone, it wasn’t meant to be taken too seriously. Even though it was filled with cheese, some hilarious bad special effects and uneven acting, it was still a helluva lot of fun.
In the original, three gang-bangers meet up with an eccentric funeral owner named Mr. Simms (played by the great Clarence Williams III) to acquire some drugs. While they are there, Simms tells them four horror tales, each with a defining moral in the end. While none of the stories are particularly groundbreaking, the themes surrounding African-American struggles remains poignant even to this day. One of the stories is themed around police-brutality, something that still seems painfully relevant to this day. It even dealt with reparations, how the horrific past of America must never be ignored regardless of all the progress that has been made.
The morals were sometimes painfully obvious but it was all done with tongue-in-cheek humor. It could have used a little more clever satire, especially in its over-the-top depictions of its villains, but that was also part of its charm.
But the film would have never been memorable if it wasn’t for that hilarious twist in the end. Without spoiling it, it has to be seen to believed. Trust me, you won’t regret it. Though I would suggest having a few beers just so you can enjoy fully.
A sequel more than twenty years later — from a film that most people won’t remember — might seem like one of the many cynical cash-grabs on the market. But you have to remember that the original TFTH was made in a different time. It was made just a few years after the LA riots and during OJ Simpson trial. Times have certainly changed!
A Necessary Update
Tales from the Hood 2 takes itself, particularly in its final segment, The Sacrifice, a bit more seriously. This is both a detriment to the film as well as a positive. The detriment is that the story itself is filled with ham-fisted moralizing lectures. The positive is that the filmmakers at least attempted to make a poignant statement and you have to respect that, even if it can be hilariously cheesy.
You can see both films are interesting and timely dates on the struggles of African-Americans. The first segment, Good Golly, seems more fanatic in its social-justice ideology. This segment is about how racism has spread through the ages in American culture, through literature, cinema and even cuddly stuffed puppets. This is often to the ignorance of its white subjects. Having said this, the ending is so comically moronic and over-the-top that it’s hard to take too seriously.
Even if one wishes the film was more clever in delivering its messages — they could learn something from Jordan Peele — I’m still happy that the film didn’t copy the original film. Rather, it updated the initial concept for the modern era.
Clarence Williams III’s over-the-top performance was the best thing about the original film. Being both hilarious and exceedingly menacing, he will remain one of my favorite horror hosts of horror film anthologies — though the Cryptkeeper will always remain number one.
It’s unfortunate that he hasn’t returned in the sequel but Keith David is a perfect replacement. Just like Williams III, you can see how much he relishes playing his part, knowing how all of it will end. Similar to Williams III, David has the voice and maniacal laughter that is perfect for the part.
Just like the original, the host becomes the best thing about this film. Each scene featuring Mr. Sims is a joy to watch, so much so that you’re just waiting for the story to end just so you can see David hamming it up again.
While it’s hard to top the glorious madness of the original film’s climax, the ending to Tales from the Hood 2 is more than satisfying. It’s basically a throwback to the original, but it’s hard to care when Keith David is doing such a great job.
Here’s to hoping that Keith David will portray Mr. Sims again one day!
Other than the framing device, this might very well be my favorite story in Tales from the Hood 2.
In this story, Bryan Batt plays a fake TV psychic who is taken hostage by a group of thugs who want him to channel an old rival so that he can tell them where he stashed his money. When the story takes its inevitable macabre and particularly humorous turn, it works because of Bryan Batt’s performance.
The filmmakers love for classic horror movies are also in display. There is a fun reference to 1985’s Fright Night and a TV cameo of Vincent Price from House on the Haunted Hill. There are probably many more that I have missed.
The third story called Date Night is easily the weakest of the bunch. The twist is almost insultingly obvious and it lacks any comical gore to compensate for its predictability. The only worthwhile thing is that it features a funny sight-gag.
As I expected with such a low-budget, a lot of special-effects were done with cheap CGI. Though there are some instances of neat practical effects, the CGI is really poor. There’s a few callbacks to effects from the original film, but they pale in comparison to the first film which displayed an extensive use of practical effects.
Lack of Gore
Though the film doesn’t lack gore, it could have used some more. In the original, divine justice was enacted in the original with delicious Grand Guignol brutality, and here, we miss some of that satisfying retribution. The finale especially could have used some silly bloodshed.
A Little Too Long
The original was a solid 90-minute fun-ride. This one clocks in at about an hour and fifty minutes and, unfortunately, drags in parts. This is partly due to the lackluster Date Night segment, especially since you’re not really curious where the story is heading as the twist is so blatantly obvious. And it’s also due to the final The Sacrifice segment, which though ambitious, is just a little too clunky in its moralizing execution.
Like so many anthology horror movies, Tales from the Hood 2 is too uneven to become a classic in its sub-genre. Like the original Tales from the Hood, the social-messages are in your face but more timely considering its release. Unfortunately, the original was also more consistent in quality and featured much more fun gore and practical effects while this sequel features lame, cheap CGI.
However, it’s still worth seeing just for Keith David’s madcap performance and a hilarious ending which Tales from the Hood diehards (I’m sure there are some) will adore.
Thank you for reading! What are you thoughts on Tales from the Hood 2? Comment down below!
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