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Big-screen blind spot: Halloween -- 'Tales from the Hood'

Once in a while, a movie slips under your radar. For about, oh, 20 years. In 'Big-screen blind spot: Halloween,' we sit down with those 'classic' horror movies everybody but us has seen and give them the nostalgia critic treatment.

Confession: Last year, RedEye staffers discussed their favorite scary moments from horror and Halloween movies. One in particular, starring Corbin Bernsen among others, generated some animated discussion in the newsroom. Until recently, I had never seen the 1995 horror anthology "Tales from the Hood," executive produced by Spike Lee and featuring four black culture-themed shorts framed by a narrative of three drug dealers trying to buy "found" drugs from a wacky storytelling funeral director.

Had I seen it in 1995 at the age of 8: Grounded immediately. Not only is the language more than salty (I still get a little bit of a shock when I hear the N-word used in a movie as much as it is in this one), but the gory special effects and use of monsters, zombies and inanimate-objects-come-to-life to eat your racist flesh would have quite literally made me shit the bed as an 8-year-old. Also, I grew up in a predominantly white, suburban town in Kansas--what's this about racism, now? Any social messaging aside from "OH MY GOD KILLER DOLLS" would have gone directly over my head. 

Now: Anthologies and those centered on social commentary are my favorite kinds of horror films, and this one delivers, both in its execution as a classic horror flick and as a pop culture movie with a message. Stories about realities in the black community such as child abuse, police brutality, gang violence and racist politicians are turned on their heads and repackaged as psychological, supernatural thrillers that imagine what revenge would look like on those who have wronged them, from within the community and outside of it. A man being beaten to death by white cops isn't horrifying enough? Let's turn the guy into a vengeful zombie who comes back from the dead to decapitate and crucify his killers. A racist white politician moves into a former plantation house and disrespects the lives of slaves lost there? Let's set things right and use nightmarish puppetry and animation to send droves of small black dolls to kill him by eating his flesh. What I expected to be a campy 1990s horror comedy, maybe even a parody of others like "Tales from the Crypt" and "Creepshow" for black audiences, is one of the most original and well-executed of the classic horror anthology genre. Some of the stories stand out much more than others--as is often the case in anthologies--but the messaging is consistent, the targets are balanced and the "Twilight Zone"-esque ending wraps it up neatly.

Must be noted: The final story (which leads into the conclusion of the narrative story) in the anthology about psychological, nightmarish experiments done on gang members who have shot and killed innocents, including children, hits a little too close to home with the violence rates in Chicago, almost 20 years later.

 

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Copyright © 2015, RedEye
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