Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Tales from the Hood

This movie was a fond memory from high school, where it played on HBO fairly frequently, but I don’t think I’ve managed to see it once since college started. As such, I was slightly nervous that this would be yet another youthful favorite that I wound up hating when I saw it again years later, but my fears were thankfully completely unfounded. Indeed, I’d go so far as to say that, of the nearly nonexistent number of horror anthology films of the 90s, this definitely ranks up at the top of the list.

The film is structured around three gang members that go to a funeral parlor after being lured with promises of drugs by one of the most beautifully creepy morticians ever put on film. I wish I could find a picture of him, but he’s essentially an elderly black version of Amadeus, all wild hair and bug eyes. As he takes them to their rewards, he relates to them stories of four of the people in his parlor. There’s the story of a rookie black cop who fails to stop his white veteran officers from beating a political activist to death, a story of a young boy who can hurt people with his drawings, a story about a racist politician running for governor that runs afoul of some Southern voodoo, and a surprisingly serious story about a gang member that gets experimented on in prison.

Whenever you get an anthology, there’s always one story that’s weaker than the others, and while in most it tends to be buried somewhere in the middle, here, because of how it ties in with the three gang members of the wraparound story, it’s placed squarely at the end. While the first three stories are told more than slightly tongue-in-cheek (the second story even has David Alan Grier playing a dangerous boyfriend, which is somewhat along the lines of us being expected to find Jim Carrey frightening in The Number 23), this one starts to tread dangerously close to preachiness, as the prisoner comes face to face with all of his past victims, and sees just how much pain gang members cause even to strangers. A real laugh riot, that one.

The best is easily the one with the racist politician that was so blatantly modeled on former presidential hopeful David Duke that he’s even named Duke and has the same former KKK affiliations. While running his campaign, he decides to set up shop in a former plantation whose owner massacred all of his slaves after the Civil War to prevent them from leaving him. Unfortunately for the would-be Governor, their souls still remain at the house, bonded to a set of voodoo dolls that begin raising all kinds of hell. It’s all told with a great deal of fun and humor to it, as when he flings a vase at the first reanimated doll and wildly screams out “No reparations!” It’s find political insight like that which you rarely find in movies these days.

I am admittedly a pretty big fan of horror anthologies, due no doubt in large part to how I’ve managed to successfully avoid most of the clunkers out there. Regardless, this still manages to be a superior entrant, ranking up with the likes of Creepshow and Amicus anthologies like Asylum and Tales From the Crypt. That it came out in the mid-90s, when the horror genre was largely on life support, just makes it all the more impressive. This is a movie that definitely needs to get re-released on DVD pronto.

Rating: *** ½

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