Despite its cult status, Tales from the Hood is the last film I ever expected to receive a lavish limited-edition release from the British Film Institute. Directed by Rusty Cundieff and executive-produced by Spike Lee, the film is packed with brilliant ideas that have gone on to influence modern filmmakers.
The film presents four short urban-themed horror tales, through the lens of the modern African-American experience in the US. Covering police corruption, domestic abuse, institutional racism and gang violence, the four stories are presented within a frame story following three drug dealers being stuck in a funeral parlour with an eccentric mortician (Clarence Williams III). The short and snappy tales are mixed in quality, but generally present a spooky story with powerful and thought-provoking undertones, with the third story – “KKK Comeuppance” – particularly effective. 25 years after the film’s release, the problems discussed and the presentation of them has lost none of its power to shock, primarily due to the unfortunate truth that all of the problems discussed are still so prevalent in these turbulent times, making this UK Blu-ray debut rather timely.
While the comedy elements of the film haven’t aged particularly well, there are some genuine scares here and some of the imagery lingers in the mind long after the credits have rolled. The stories are all the more powerful in that their horrors are largely based in real-world experience, making the film’s horror elements far more harrowing than other titles in the genre. It’s clear to see how this film has influenced filmmaker Jordan Peele who so incredibly portrayed the horrors of the black experience in the US with his Oscar-winning modern classic Get Out.
This Blu-ray release also includes the 2018 sequel which unfortunately comes nowhere near the quality of the first film, and as such, should really just be considered a curiosity special feature rather than a fully-fledged part of the boxset. It is a very weak film that relies on audiences’ fondness for the original while lacking the innovation and visceral, hard-hitting power of the original. Other special features include Welcome to Hell: The Making of Tales from the Hood and interviews with the films’ creatives, alongside a booklet that features an essay by curator Adam Murray, and credits.
While Tales from the Hood doesn’t exactly cry out BFI, the label have put together a passionate release that will delight fans of the films. The original film is worth the purchase alone, while those who are new to the series should adjust their expectations for the underwhelming sequel.