It’s been 23 years since Tales From the Hood came out and yet, it’s still relevant as ever. The horror anthology dealt with issues that plague the black community such as police brutality, racist politicians and gang violence, adding elements of the paranormal. Not a lot has changed since then and only more problems have come to the surface. A sequel was in order. This time, to tackle one of Black America’s biggest problems: mass incarceration.
Stepping into the role of Mr. Simms (previously played by Clarence Williams III) is the one and only Keith David. His portrayal of the eccentric storyteller is a lot more cool and collected compared to Williams’ original performance. However, he still has a fixation on saying “the shit!” to the delight of fans of the first film. Mr. Simms has been contracted by a private prison corporation to tell stories of vice and crime to a prototype of the “RoboPatriot”, an artificially intelligent law enforcer designed to predict criminal activity. The corporation’s owner, Dumass Beach is a racist, sexual abuser and overall scumbag who wants to “pack more black bodies into his prison”. Whenever Beach mouths off about something vaguely racist, Mr. Simms simply grins devilishly and offers another tale. The first is titled Good Golly.
A pair of young girls visit the “Museum of Negrosity”, a museum of pre-Emancipation and Jim Crow-era memorabilia. Audrey, the white girl of the pair, wants to buy a Golly Doll, a dark-faced rag doll from the late 19th century, for her grandmother’s collection. The curator states that nothing in his museum is for sale and that everything on display is meant to serve as a painful reminder of America’s racist past. Viewers might recognize one of the dolls on display from the KKK Comeuppance segment in Tales From the Hood. Audrey won’t take no for an answer, so she returns to the museum later that night with her brother to help her break in and steal the doll. But upon smashing its glass case, the golly doll disappears, only to reappear as a 10-foot monster, ready to wreak havoc on the intruders using tools found throughout the museum.
The next tale, The Medium, is my personal favorite. It opens with three gang members torturing a former pimp called Booze, to find out the where he has his money stashed. When one of the thugs accidentally kills Booze, they decide to pay a visit to television psychic John Lloyd, hoping he can communicate with the ghost of Booze and tell them the location. The psychic tries to tell the gangsters that it’s all an act and that he can’t actually talk to the dead, but agrees to attempt a séance once they put a gun to his head. By some miracle, the séance actually works! Lloyd channels the ghosts of the gangsters’ past victims, finally embodying the ghost of Booze. With his new body and newfound telekinetic powers, Booze exacts his revenge on his murderers.
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The third tale, Date Night, isn’t necessarily a “Hood” tale, but it’s no less relevant, especially in the age of the #MeToo movement. Two guys, posing as a talent agent and casting director, are on their way to a double Tinder date with two smoking hot babes at a luxurious mansion. Things start off innocent enough with a sensual game of Cards Against Humanity. However, the guys want to skip the foreplay so they roofie the girls’ drinks.
Once unconscious, the two guys carry the girls to the bedroom and strip them down to their lingerie, planning to film themselves violating the women. That is until they notice the two girls appear invisible in the camera display. You know what that means: Vampires!
“The real horror lies in the overt racism and the realization that after more than 20 years, very little has changed.”
The final story, The Sacrifice, is the most serious and by far the most confusing. Two timelines take place. In one, it shows the events leading up to the lynching of Emmet Till, a black boy who was killed in 1955 for whistling at a white woman. The publication of his death is credited as the impetus to the civil rights movement. In the other timeline, it’s present day. Henry, a black man, is organizing a fundraiser for a race-baiting politician running for governor of Mississippi. While this is happening, Henry’s pregnant wife is having reoccurring nightmares, claiming there’s a boy in the yard trying to steal their baby.
With the help of a voodoo doctor, Henry makes contact with the ghost in the yard, who turns out to be Emmet. Soon Henry’s yard is filled with the ghosts of those who died for the civil rights movement, including Dr. King. Their lives were sacrificed so that Henry could be free, even if that means supporting systematic racism. Almost instantly, Henry’s world warps around him. His wife claims Henry kidnapped her and runs off to inform the local police force, officially headed by Klansmen. Henry must accept the sacrifices of the past and make a sacrifice of his own to save his baby and prevent the future he helped create from happening.
In today’s political climate, the timing of the release of Tales From the Hood 2 is appropriate, though I felt there was the potential to do a lot more with the stories. They seemed rather light compared to the dark tones of Tales From the Hood. Being a fan of the first, I realize that perhaps I was expecting too much from the sequel.
The premise of having Mr. Simms telling stories to a robot in a hangar was a bizarre choice. I would have preferred he stay in his funeral home, but how else would you make a commentary on prison profiteering and the dangers of AI surveillance? Politics aside, the humor is great and I did enjoy Keith David’s performance. The stories themselves aren’t necessarily scary. The real horror lies in the overt racism and the realization that after more than 20 years, very little has changed.
Tales From the Hood 2 celebrated its world premiere at the Fantasia Film Festival in Montreal on July 13th and is slated to be released on DVD, BluRay and digital platforms on October 2nd.
Check out more of Nightmare on Film Street’s Fantasia Fest Coverage here, and be sure to sound off with your thoughts over on Twitter and in our Facebook Group!