The three Tales from the Hood movies offer varying degrees of social commentary, humor, and scares. The first one offers the most complex social commentary and best balance of humor and horror. The second veers much more towards humor. The third is the scariest (though it did involve a haunted CGI basketball?!). Each has their ups and downs, but they are all worth a watch. Here is how I would rank the segments so far.
15. “Date Night” (Tales from the Hood 2)
Two men meet up with two women for a date. This segment suffers from the one criticism I can’t hurl at any of the others: it is both boring and predictable. There is one neat moment when the realization of what’s really happening on this date hits, but otherwise brace yourself for watching a few actors awkwardly flirt and play two whole rounds (!) of Cards of Humanity for an uninspired take on some contemporary issues.
14. “The Bunker” (Tales from the Hood 3)
“The Bunker” has an interesting albeit unoriginal twist ending that gave it the edge over “Date Night”. But the main bulk of the segment is nearly unbearable. We spend almost the entire story listening to the racist ramblings of a white supremacist seemingly trapped inside an underground bunker. Complete with him having sex with blowup dolls. Although I liked the ending’s reveal, it simply did not come soon enough to salvage this one.
13. “Boys Do Get Bruised” (Tales from the Hood 1)
An elementary school teacher (played by writer/director Rusty Cundieff) becomes concerned a young boy is living an abusive household. This is a great mix of true life horrors and a young boy’s fantasy that leads to a very cathartic ending. Fans of Pan’s Labyrinth and Tigers Are Not Afraid will enjoy this well-crafted short. For me, it felt predictable so it ranks lower than the segments that surprised me more.
12. “Operatic” (Tales from the Hood 3)
A young singer befriends a producer who introduces her to a retired, wealthy singer looking for a companion. It is pretty easy to call this one early, but it is a decent enough anyway. Miss Marie Bastille’s sad backstory and some of the set design and visuals are fabulous (with some 1977 Suspiria vibes to boot!). There are also some great dream sequences. Unfortunately, the themes presented seem simplistic compared to many other series entries.
11. “Welcome to My Mortuary” (Tales from the Hood 1)
Classic. Clarence Williams III excels as the “eccentric isn’t a strong enough word” funeral director Mr. Simms. Simms is supposed to be showing three gangsters a stash of drugs (referred to as “the shit” in increasingly comical effect), but keeps segwaying into telling stories about different deceased people in the mortuary. This wraparound segment builds to a predictable but utterly entertaining reveal.
10. “The Sacrifice” (Tales from the Hood 2)
In a story that rotates between past and present, Emmett Till is confronted for allegedly whistling at a white woman while in the present a Black Republican named Henry works to close polling locations in predominantly Black areas in Mississippi.
Henry seems like an expansion of Rhodie’s character from “KKK Comeuppance”, and even though the short’s premise doesn’t feel fully baked (why is Emmett transfixed on Henry specifically?), it is emotionally jarring. Though it feels a bit distasteful to show Emmett’s death, it also provides a welcome dose of poignancy to the second film. I just wish the modern-day parts were more nuanced in order to make it excel.
9. “Unnamed Wraparound Story” (Tales from the Hood 3)
Unlike the other two wraparounds, this is focused on being scary and ominous. It also isn’t a typical Mr. Simms setup. Instead, we are dropped in media res to a story that involves beloved horror icon Tony Todd leading a young girl somewhere as they are followed by ominous figures with bags over their heads. The girl is the one who initiates telling each story as a way to distract herself from the fear of what’s happening. The ending of the story is equal parts horrific and cathartic. It feels odd to change the formula in the third film, but I appreciate the twist.
I realize it will probably be controversial to rank this above the original wraparound, but as a horror fan I love when something surprises me so I’m giving this the edge.
8. “Robo Hell” (Tales from the Hood 2)
Although this is the most on the nose of the three wraparound segments, I love Keith David as Mr. Simms. David plays Mr. Simms in a way that lets you know he’s got a big reveal in store, but you always feel in on the joke. The idea of the “Robo-Patriots” learning through stories and inference leads to a predictable conclusion, but it is cathartic to see a Trump stand-in named Dumas Beach (say it out loud) get his comeuppance.
Why rank it above the other two wraparounds? Once again I have to compliment Keith David’s performance (and whoever designed his amazing suit!).
7. “The Medium” (Tales from the Hood 2)
A trio of gangsters accidently murder a gangster-turned-community leader before finding out where he might have secretly stashed his ill-gained riches. Desperate, they turn to a TV psychic to try and channel the dead man. This segment is delightful. It is definitely more straight comedy than thoughtful social commentary, but I’ll be damned if Bryan Batt’s turn as a possessed medium is not one of the funniest things I’ve seen in a long time. There are also some great effects when the tables turn on the trio of gangsters who dare disturb the afterlife.
This is probably my most controversial story ranking, but I just love the dose of straight comedy and how effectively it is delivered.
6. “Good Golly” (Tales from the Hood 2)
There is an angry streak barely masked by the pitch-black “should I be laughing at this or not?” humor in this segment. This story is set in a small roadside museum of racist caricatures (similar to the Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia), and highlights the way our very recent history of Jim Crow policies conflicts with the idea of a “post-racial” society. I love the ideas and themes behind this segment. It sets the more humorous, sarcastic tone of the second film, and features some truly stomach-turning gore and cringe before reaching its end. Unfortunately, the characters are mostly detestable in this segment, so it does make it a bit of a slog.
5. “Dope Kicks” (Tales from the Hood 3)
A street thief who specializes in the “knockout game” gets his comeuppance when he is cursed to walk a mile his in his victim’s shoes. This story has a lot of echoes of “Hard-Core Convert” and Jacob’s Ladder, and though it veers towards silly it is also clever in its execution of the curse and reveal. I love the way it manages to blend a specific contemporary issue with timeless questions of life and death. I also think the supernatural elements provide an especially good touch.
4. “Rogue Cop Revelation” (Tales from the Hood 1)
A Black rookie cop witnesses his white colleagues brutalize and murder a Black community leader for fighting against police corruption. This story is a perfect introduction to the series, setting up the equal parts of social commentary, dark humor, and moral comeuppance that the Tales movies excel at in their best moments. It is also a reminder that we are still struggling to eradicate police corruption and brutality – the only difference being the way technology has allowed us to see these situations continue to play out before our very own eyes.
3. “Ruby Gates” (Tales from the Hood 3)
A Black landlord tries to flush out the last tenants of an apartment complex he plans to turnover to a slimy developer in order to help gentrify the area. Even including the haunted basketball, this is one of the scarier Tales from the Hood segments in the whole series, with nods to The Changeling, The Shining, and Poltergeist. The issues of gentrification and the ‘blink and miss em’ suggestions the story takes place in Chicago (the 773 area code and reference to the Bears) really help embody the social commentary of the Tales films. This one does pull back on the humor quite a bit, but it fits the level of pathos it is trying to instill. (Sidenote: is the slimy developer supposed to read as hitting on the main character when he calls from his sex swing?!)
2. “KKK Comeuppance” (Tales from the Hood 1)
I think this is one of the standout (if not THE standout) segments from the first film. Although it leans more satire than I’d typically go for in horror, what makes this one work so well is the absolute catharsis of Lindsey Graham/Donald Trump stand in Duke Metger getting what he deserves in such a karmically exquisite fashion. I also thought the subplot with his Black “image maker” Rhodie was fascinating. Sadly this story, like almost everything in the first film, feels just as relevant today as it did then.
1. “Hard-Core Convert” (Tales from the Hood 1)
A convicted murderer is offered an opportunity at an experimental rehabilitation technique for a reduced sentence. This segment surprised me the most, and offered a ton of lingering food for thought. Plus it leads perfectly into the conclusion of the wraparound segment for the first film. It was hard to determine if this or “KKK Comeuppance” should take the top spot, but the level of visceral horror in this one sells it for me.
I cannot recommend these movies enough. This was a hard ranking to create, and it really made me appreciate every segment even more. Please give these a watch and help support this content so we can hopefully get more.