Whenever I find myself in a discussion of history’s great horror anthology films, I inevitably express my adoration of producer Spike Lee’s Tales from the Hood (1995), a film that arguably changed my life. After all, as I recall, this was the film that indirectly resulted in my now decades-long love affair with Blaxploitation cinema, as I saw the film and subsequently worked my way back through black American cinema of the 1990’s to the Blaxploitation pictures of the 1970’s! How could a film with that title inspire such a huge shift in my viewing habits? Simply put, Tales from the Hood moved me immensely when I saw it upon its initial VHS release because, as all great Blaxploitation films before it did, it provides powerful social commentary in an otherwise standard genre format: the horror anthology.
It tackles many of the same issues that racially-charged films of the late-1980’s to mid-1990’s such as Spike Lee’s own Do the Right Thing (1989), Boyz n the Hood (1991), or Menace II Society (1993) did. Yet its horror trappings make it stand out from the others, which is both to its benefit and detriment. I mean, how many other horror movies can you think of from that era that addressed such a multitude of contemporary issues plaguing urban African American communities? You had Candyman (1992) and to a somewhat lesser extent, Wes Craven’s The People Under the Stairs (1991), sure, but no other single film was able to accomplish as much as Tales from the Hood did, dissecting gang violence, institutionalized racism, domestic violence, and police brutality in just a little over an hour and a half!
Unfortunately, I’ve found that, because it’s a horror film and the title makes it sound like some sort of urban Tales from the Crypt parody, it’s a film many fail to take seriously, and they’ll do so sight unseen. Yet the pedigree of the film alone should be an indicator of its quality! In addition to being produced by Spike Lee, the film’s director/co-writer, Rusty Cundieff, would go on to direct a significant portion of the seminal sketch comedy series, Chapelle’s Show, and his co-writer Darin Scott had previously produced the aforementioned Menace II Society and written the horror anthology, From a Whisper to a Scream (1987). And add to those cultural credentials a simple, yet effective structure recalling Freddie Francis’ original Tales from the Crypt (1972), doll effects by The Chiodo Brothers, gruesome transformation effects by Screaming Mad George, and a scenery-chewing, career-defining performance from Clarence Williams III as the Crypt Keeper-like Mr. Simms. The result: an extremely important horror anthology, 100% deserving of a Collector’s Edition treatment from Scream Factory!
The HD transfer of Tales from the Hood on this Collector’s Edition Blu-ray clearly puts the VHS copy I bought as a teenager to shame in terms of both picture and sound quality. (However, lest I receive hate mail about it, let it be known that I do still cherish my VHS collection.) At the center of the special features is a new, 56-minute-long making-of featurette, featuring interviews with director/writer Rusty Cundieff; producer/writer Darin Scott; actors Corbin Bernsen, Wings Hauser, and Anthony Griffith; special effects supervisor Kenneth Hall; and Charles Chiodo and Edward Chiodo. As with pretty much all of Scream Factory’s recent Collector’s Edition Blu-rays, the making-of documentary here is impressively insightful and mandatory viewing if you love the film. Structurally, it walks viewers through the production of each segment of the film separately, giving each story in the film its due attention.
Other special features include audio commentary with Rusty Cundieff and Darin Scott; a 6-minute, vintage featurette; a trailer; TV spots; and a photo gallery.