My Top 8 Horror Films: Tales from the Hood (1995)

In the same sentence where Jordan Peele named The People Under the Stairs as an influence, he also said Tales from the Hood, “…[fell] into parody town,” and, “[didn’t] scratch my horror itch.” The 23-year-awaited sequel, Tales from the Hood 2 (2018), jumps unashamedly into absurdity, tongue nearly bursting through cheek {1}. The 1995 film is by no means great. But what it lacks in conventional quality, it more than makes up for it with conviction, ingenuity, and heart. Directed by Rusty Cundieff, Tales from the Hood is a horror anthology film, like Creepshow (1982) and V/H/S (2012), where three drug dealers attempt to buy a found stash from a mortuary owner; said owner walks them to the back of his business, telling them stories of those who have recently taken residence in his caskets.

The shorts don’t overstay their welcome, which is good considering their ambitions and often ridiculous conceits (unsurprisingly, Cundieff would go on to direct the sketches and segments for Chocolate News [2008], The Wanda Sykes Show [2009], and most famously Chapelle’s Show [2003]). But some aren’t as good as others. The first short focuses on a former police officer haunted by the ghost of a victim of a deadly police encounter with two white cops that he witnessed; the second features a young boy who faces child abuse from a violent father and learns of his power to make his drawings come to life; the fourth segment depicts a homicidal gang member undergoing experimental therapy that forces him to face each of his victims. I’m too melanin deficient to adequately critique these shorts, but it’s the third segment that makes the film for me.

If nothing else, at least check out the third short for its eerie relevance. It features a racist, former-KKK senator running for re-election. He has not only moved his office to an old slave plantation, but he regularly throws around racial slurs, even at a painting of a voodoo witch, Miss Cobbs, in his office. You’re clearly supposed to hate this motherfucker. It’s why when he is pursued by killer dolls that belonged to Miss Cobbs and possessed by slaves, the movie shines in its playful yet incredibly apt use of the doll horror genre {2}.

I understand why Peele called it a ‘parody;’ you don’t necessarily feel scared or horror at what unravels insomuch as cheer it on. I suppose it would only be horrific to white supremacists or to those who really believe ‘all lives matter.’ In that way, it is a parody of horror films in that you root for the ‘monster’ to vanquish the protagonist. Either way, it’s a refreshing turn that challenges the role of ‘monsters.’ Rarely does a movie make you want the ‘horror’ to win to create a happy ending. There’s value in that, because what if you’ve been that ‘monster?’

  1. If CGI skeletons sporting sunglasses and gold teeth and dancing in front of flames and cannabis leaves is your jam, it’s on Netflix.

  2. If you’re a fan of this, I recommend the classic Child’s Play (1988) and the forgotten Dolls (1987).

Reyes Ramirez