Tales from the Hood I & II
Horror meets the hood in Rusty Cundieff’s politically-charged horror-comedy anthology series.
Stories of abuse, corruption and racism towards the African-American community are given the horror film treatment, as an eccentric funeral director attempts to deter a gang of drug dealers from a life of crime.
Executive-produced by Spike Lee, this cult horror favourite is presented alongside its 2018 sequel, which reunites the original creative team for more tales of terror.
This 2-Disc Blu-ray set is strictly limited to 3000 copies.
The BFI presents Rusty Cundieff's Tales from the Hood and Tales from the Hood 2 together in an all-new 2-disc Blu-ray set, presenting each film on its own dual-layer disc. Tales from the Hood is presented in the aspect ratio of 1.85:1 while the second film is presented in the ratio of 1.78:1. Both are encoded at 1080p/24hz and locked to region B. North American viewers will require Blu-ray players capable of playing back region B content.
For Tales from the Hood it appears BFI is using the same master Shout! used for their North American Scream Factory edition. It’s okay but it’s obvious it’s an older master. Film grain is a bit of a mess, looking heavier in places, non-existent in others, and when it is there it's always fuzzy and lacks any sort of film-like texture: it looks more video-like and noisy in nature. Having said that detail isn’t too bad, and the image does look sharp throughout and rendering a decent amount of detail. Colours are nicely saturated (reds and greens look really good) and are better in comparison to the old North American DVD edition. Black levels are also strong most of the time, but there are instances where they still come off a bit milky. Bits of damage still pop up in places, but this is also the case with the Scream Factory edition and still a leap forward in comparison to the previous North American DVD edition.
Tales from the Hood 2 (released in 2018) was filmed digitally so it’s a completely different beast, and even if it technically looks better than the first film it has its own set of issues that are more than likely related to the source files and the film’s limited budget. I wouldn’t be surprised if the budget is what plays a bigger factor into it, though: it's mentioned in an included interview that the original film’s budget, when adjusted for inflation, would be about $18 million in today’s dollars, while the second film’s budget was under $2 million. I’m sure they had to cut back on equipment, crew, and effects and this evident all throughout, even the little details; for a villain's company logo they're literally using the graphic that makes region B encoded Blu-rays. Ignoring the computer effects (which are, I’m sorry to say, not good) the rest of the image is generally fine: the picture is very sharp and finer details do manage to come through, especially on Keith David’s rather elaborate outfit, and the colours look very good with superb saturation. Still, black levels are a bit iffy, coming off murky at times. The image is also very flat, rarely having any sort of depth, and this leads to the film having what I can only call a “straight-to-video look.” There are also some digital artifacts like banding and noise on occasion, though something tells me these issues are inherent to the source files and nothing to do with the encode.
The second film’s presentation is probably about as good as it gets and is fine for what it is, but the first film’s presentation, while still decent enough and light-years better than the North American HBO DVD (and on par with the Scream Factory Blu-ray), is still disappointing and it's certainly open to improvement. It’s a shame that the film is unlikely to get any sort of new restoration any time soon.
Tales from the Hood (1995): 7/10 Tales from the Hood 2 (2018): 8/10
The second film features a DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround soundtrack while both films receive lossless 2.0 stereo surround soundtracks. Scream Factory included an alternate soundtrack for the first film that doesn’t appear here, but to be honest I was sort of lost what that track was for (it almost sounded like it was an unrestored version of the soundtrack), so it’s not a huge loss here. I only listened to the 5.1 surround track on the second film.
At any rate, neither film’s soundtrack goes out of its way while still managing to each offer a satisfying enough mix. Dialogue is clear and sharp and sound effects (including the occasional explosion) are mixed appropriately enough. The mix also gets a little creative with direction, though oddly it’s more effective in the first film’s 2.0 presentation than the second film’s 5.1 mix, as shown in the first film’s story involving the dolls, whose feet pitter-patter beautifully around the viewer.
Ultimately, neither are super-creative in the mix but they’re both clean and clear, with sharp range and fidelity.
BFI provides features over both discs, the first disc replicating most of the North American Scream Factory release for the first film. BFI has thankfully been able to secure that edition’s two big features, an audio commentary featuring director Rusty Cundieff and an in-depth 56-minute making-of documentary. I’m confused about the origins of the commentary as I thought it was new to the Scream edition, and BFI’s notes around it seem to suggest that, though it might have actually been recorded for the LaserDisc edition released in 1997 and somehow not carried over to the HBO DVD edition. At any rate, the commentary features the director going over the film’s production and the development of the stories, getting into the social issues and news items that inspired each one. He explains several of his choices, like why he cast the likeable Corbin Bernsen to play such an awful character, and why he made the wraparound story more comedic in nature. He also recalls some issues with the MPAA and gets into detail about changes he had to make, which sound to have been more concentrated to the film’s second story. I was also amused by how he points out mistakes in the film, and little bloopers that show up, which are only there because he felt the best performances were in those specific takes and just hoped no one would notice the mistakes. It’s an incredibly entertaining track and very insightful, and I’m very happy BFI decided to get it for their release.
I’m also happy BFI went to the trouble to license the making-of from Scream Factory’s edition, made in 2017 and featuring Cundieff again along with producer and co-writer Darin Scott, actors Corbin Bernsen Wings Hauser and Anthony Griffith, special effects supervisor Kenneth Hall, and doll effects supervisors Charles Chiodo and Edward Chiodo. Some of the material is repeated from the commentary but this has the advantage of getting perspectives from the other actors and the effects team, with details about the doll work (mostly stop motion) being the most interesting. Bernsen ends up being a bit apologetic (and probably over-defensive) for his character, though this is intercut with Scott and Cundieff talking about how much they were laughing on-set at Bernsen’s racist ad-libs. One could probably skip the commentary and just watch this, though the two together cover a lot of detail about the production as a whole and the individual segments.
The disc then closes with the film’s trailer. Not carried over from the Scream edition is a gallery along with a few features that were also found on the original North American DVD: a vintage making-of featurette and about seven or so TV spots. The featurette was more an advertisement in nature and not a big loss.
BFI goes the extra mile, though, and has produced a couple of new features for their edition and present them on the second disc with Tales from the Hood 2. The best one is a lengthy 68-minute interview between Cundieff and film critic Adam Murray, conducted over teleconferencing software, and if one decided they were only going to watch one feature on this edition I would say this is the one (with the making-of on the previous disc a close second). The format is admittedly stale since it is, for a majority of the time, either a split screen of the two or a minimized window of one of the participants (with clips and photos thrown in to stir things up a bit) but the two have a very engaging conversation about both films, their individual segments, and, to a small degree, black representation in the horror genre. The interview also clears up why the second film really falls so short of the first one, which sounds to be a mix of a super low-budget and Universal being scared by the political climate at the time. For example, the original wraparound story was too much for Universal executives (it sounds as though the center of the story was clearly based on a specific political figure) and Cundieff and his crew literally had to rewrite and reshoot the whole segment in one day. While the film’s problems are clearly known and addressed, this doesn’t stop the two from having very insightful and engaging discussions about each of the film’s stories, the lengthiest focusing around the last story, which (for me) was the best one. Cundieff also talks about a third film, which he promises is far better than the second, and honestly, after his interview, I’m actually kind of excited to see it, even if I'm still going to tamper my expectations a bit.
BFI then includes another new interview, this one between producer Darin Scott and BFI’s Abigail Yartey. Not as in-depth as the previous interview and only running around 19-minutes, the two do manage to expand on the topic of black representation in the horror genre, touched on in the previous interview. Scott even touches on how difficult it can still be to make a horror film with minority characters, Scott recalling how he had just been turned down by a studio (that goes unnamed) before Get Out became a huge success. He also talks about why it took so long to get the second Tales from the Hood film made, a lot of it having to do with the original production company, Savoy Pictures, going belly up and he and Cundieff not being sure who owned the rights. He does suggest, though, that Get Out probably also played a big part behind it getting made because there is now a desire for “this content” because of that film’s success.
The disc then concludes with a 5-minute self-playing gallery that presents storyboard samples, design drawings for the dolls in the first film, call sheets and even poster art. There are also photos from the second film, including photos taken from what is obviously the alternate wraparound story. Interestingly David’s character appears to be a butler in this segment (as he’s shown on the original Universal Home Video art for the film), though it’s not clear if his character is still supposed to be Simms from the first film (played by Clarence Williams III). It would have been interesting to see the original segment, though I’m guessing Universal would have said “no” to that.
BFI also includes one of their excellent booklets. This one features an essay by Adam Murray, who covers the two films and his love of the horror genre in general, while also explaining the importance of black horror and black representation, recalling personal stories and experiences in the process. The booklet also features photos from the films, including a couple around the dolls that appear in both films.
Though it doesn’t carry everything over from previous editions (on top of the fact the second film isn’t all that good), BFI has put together a more satisfying collection of supplements compared to the North American edition, offering a more satisfying look behind the two films and more in-depth discussion about black representation in the horror genre.
The presentations are what they are and the first one’s is definitely open to improvement, but BFI’s edition makes up for any shortcomings by putting together an insightful collection of supplements that should satisfy fans of the series.