Release Date(s)1995 (April 18, 2017)
Studio(s)Savoy Pictures (Shout!/Scream Factory)
- Film/Program Grade: B+
- Video Grade: A-
- Audio Grade: A-
- Extras Grade: B+
A group of cops murdering an innocent man, an evil monster posing as a father who beats his wife and child, a racist and uncaring politician, and a murderous thug put through hellish reform... their most terrifying nightmares and their most frightening realities are about to meet, on the streets. Borrowing a bit from one of the movie’s taglines, Tales from the Hood took what was primarily a British movie institution – the horror anthology – and breathed new life into it with social/political commentary from an African-American viewpoint.
Falsely considered by many to be a knock-off of the Tales from the Crypt TV show, the film was released in 1995 but fell into obscurity due to a poor marketing effort, though it popped up in constant rotation on HBO. Today, it’s not difficult to see the film for what it is, less of a parody and more of a gritty social commentary under the guise of a tongue-in-cheek horror omnibus. It manages to do a lot with very little and definitely has a lot of flair to it besides its layered storylines. Clarence Williams III gives an over-the-top performance as the supposed mortician who tells three youths stories about the supernatural. The film also has many recognizable actors, including Corbin Bernsen, Joe Torry, Wings Hauser, Rosalind Cash, and David Alan Grier. Executive produced by Spike Lee, with a score by one of horror’s top composers Christopher Young, and a hit hip-hop soundtrack, Tales from the Hood should have landed harder in the horror community, though only a handful of fans sing its praises. Like all horror anthologies, not all of the stories equal in entertainment value, but there’s plenty of variety to be had.
Previously available as a bare bones (and long out of print) DVD, this Collector’s Edition release of Tales from the Hood gets an excellent upgrade in the A/V department. While it’s not a perfect presentation, as the transfer seems to be from slightly older source, there’s little to complain about. Grain levels are mild but still apparent, especially during opticals wherein film artifacts tend to pop up more frequently. Fine detail is a tad soft, but what is present is quite rich, including skin textures, objects, and backgrounds. Colors are also strong with excellent skin tones. Black levels are inky deep, though shadow detail is lacking, which is likely inherent in the original elements. Brightness and contrast levels are satisfactory as well. There’s also no apparent signs of overzealous digital enhancements or clean-ups. For the audio selection, two tracks are available, both in English 2.0 DTS-HD, with one labeled as “Alternate”. Listening to the two, it’s clear that the alternate track is less polished. It’s flatter, with some noticeable hiss, making the first track the main way to go. Dialogue is clean and discernable, while sound effects, score, and music are given plenty of room to breathe. Spaced out with obvious dynamic range, there’s also occasional LFE activity, particularly during the hip-hop selections. Subtitles are also available in English as well.
For the extras, there’s an audio commentary with co-writer/director Rusty Cundieff, which has been carried over from the movie’s original Laserdisc release; the brand new, hour-long Welcome to Hell: The Making of Tales from the Hood documentary, featuring many members of the film’s cast and crew; a vintage promotional featurette; the movie’s theatrical trailer; 7 TV spots; and an animated photo gallery. As told on a recent Shock Waves podcast, an additional cast commentary was recorded but due to an accident during a lightning storm, it was tragically erased and lost forever. It’s a bummer, but the extras that are present are definitely worth your time.
Scream Factory’s new Collector’s Edition Blu-ray release of Tales from the Hood rescues another gem and gives it new life. It’s an enjoyable movie and one that I’m happy to see back into print for reexamination and rediscovery. Just having a proper widescreen release of the film readily available on disc is reason enough to celebrate. To any of the movie’s naysayers or nitpickers, I say this: “Chill, or be chilled!”
- Tim Salmons