Happy (Marginalizing) Black History Month, my Anubians! One of my top horror anthologies of ever is the original Tales From the Hood, as it should be one of yours too. The stand-out star to me was Clarence Williams III who played our humble narrator, the funeral home director. Doesn’t quite roll of the tongue like “The Cryptkeeper”, but his over-the-top performance elevated the stories before us, just like a good narrator should.
Sadly, I thought he was dead. Happily, I discovered he was still alive! Given that he still draws breath, why the fuck wasn’t he brought back for this sequel when he was the best part of the original?! As much as I’ve loved Keith David since the first time I watched Men at Work (the movie, not the musicians), I was more than a little disappointed to see he was replacing CW3 as our storyteller for this sequel. Meanwhile, writer-directors Rusty Cundieff and Darrin Scott return, this time backed by black cinema legend Spike Lee as Executive Producer with the support of his production company, 40 Acres and a Mule. Such knowledge gave me hope that the production values would be up to snuff by modern standards. Are they?
What? That was my way of leaving the question open so you’d read the rest of the review! Damn it, just keep reading.
Funeral home director Mr. Simms (Keith David) is back, not only with a new face but a new occupation too. He’s been hired as a “storyteller” to, of all things, tell stories (!!!!) to a racist white politician’s AI program in an effort to help the synthetic sentient up its education via second hand experiences. So…wait…what the fuck is all this now!?
Right off the bat things are needlessly complicated and play off less like a sequel to the first movie and more like a rejected episode from a “Tales From the Darkside” reboot that no one asked for. MAYBE it could’ve landed on the ’80s “Twilight Zone” or “Misfits of Science”, but in 2018 the setup is both fatuous and formulaic. Already proceedings start with a rusty nail in its foot, so by the time we’re done here, a full blown bout of tetanus is the best we can hope for.
Without going deep into spoiler territory, Simms gives us a quartet of stories about terrible people suffering the supernatural repercussions of their awfulness and teaching us all a little morality lesson in the process. From the devaluing of racist historical items into rich white peoples’ whimsy to what I can best describe as an urban (you know, “black”) Beetlejuice to a PSA about meeting randos from hook-up sites and finishing up with some good old fashioned Uncle Tom shaming, the titular tales vary from too-goofy-to-take-seriously to a genuinely educational experience that should qualify for course credit in any civil rights class in the country.
I honestly can’t say much more without ruining the money shots, but I’m sorry to say that at least one of the yarns I just described feels like needless time filler that could’ve been left on the cutting room floor and saved us 15 minutes better spent between its siblings. Then again, every anthology needs that toilet break segment to give your bladder some relief in case the pause button on your remote doesn’t work anymore, so consider said story the movie’s sacrificial lamb.
The finale to Mr. Simms’ bookender scenario is the final nail in the coffin for this funeral to a 23 year-old potential franchise whose corpse is far too past its freshness date to resurrect. Remember those ’90s Keystone Light commercials heralding the horror of “bitter beer face”? That face is the best way I can summarize Tales From the Hood 2 without words. At least a bunch of people got paychecks out of it, so that’s good.
[Krix’s Komments:] I loved the first movie. I wanted to love this too, despite my general qualms about sequels that arrive more than a few years after the original. But I didn’t, despite being entertained pretty much the whole time. I’ll never complain about legitimately bad people in movies getting what’s coming to them, but this can’t possibly measure up to its predecessor. However, if you take this on its own merits, it isn’t completely terrible. There are plenty of genuinely uncomfortable moments, which the writers/directors were totally going for and succeeded in getting. The last tale has some really good ideas (especially about facing the past), and they’re heavy ones. The stories don’t play favorites: guilty people are guilty, regardless of who they are. What made this movie fall flat for me was how the serious ideas and points were positioned against the humorous elements. It was frequently outright clumsy. I recognize what they were trying to do: balance the seriousness of the topics at hand with humor to lighten the mood, which would make the bleaker themes more palatable to the audience. Making bad people who hold legitimately bad views (like racists, for example) or do bad things the joke is generally a good idea. But it needs to be done well, and consistently. That didn’t happen here. The jarring, severe changes in tone really hurt this movie. But ultimately, I enjoy seeing shitlords get what they deserve and Keith David looked like he had a good time with his role. Some days you can’t ask for more than that from a movie.
Two Black Republicans out-of-Five