March 23, 2009

Random movie flashback: Tales from the Hood

Or: Get your activism on...or else.

Part I of II, I felt it was getting a little long as it turns out I had more to say about the movie than I originally thought. Oh well! Gives me something to do.

So, I believe Saturday or Sunday morning according to my Twits, I had a random movie flashback and found myself watching Trilogy of Terror. You know what the fuck I'm talking about, what with the frightening dolls and Karen Black. Unfortunately, it still terrifies the life out of me, it seems. I was eating my grapes aghast the whole time. Just...uuuugh.

I really like anthology movies & TV shows done right, unfortunately they rarely are *sigh* I think the last good anthology type I've seen was Three...Extremes, and that fucked me up for some time as only asian horror can do.

Anyway, while I was feeling nostalgic, I drifted over to my another movie from my childhood. I kid you not, I think just about everyone I knew had this movie on tape somewhere in the house to unleash upon unsuspecting victims. And again it still scares the bejeesus out of me without much effort. If you didn't notice the title I'm talking about 1995's Tales from the Hood (as in, not the crypt you know). Goddamnit, it's something about little black dolls running after you that's just...unsettling as hell.

I've seen the movie again at different stages of my life, from being sheet-pissingly frightened as a child to being so-so apathetic towards it as an adolescent, to...being afraid of it again, I have no idea why. Umm...

I will tell you that there's something way deeper here besides little black dolls running after the KKK dude...the stories. Rusty Cundieff, who also directed Fear of a Black Hat and somehow found his way onto Chocolate News (I guess it's the David Alan Grier connection) and...just believe me when I say you know this dude--he manages to successfully, I think, combine supernatural horror with the horrors of reality.

What do I mean? Well, I mean the stories. Other than being a completely black cast (which is pretty rare for a horror anthology--shit, did I say rare, I mean never) I think this is what truly makes the movie stand out. If you haven't actually seen the movie before I won't spoil it too much for you, even though for the most part they're pretty straight forward. BUT...I just...weirdly contradicted myself, anyway--

The movie juggles several prominent & horrible aspects of the black community like gang violence, domestic abuse, drug abuse, and, of course, racism in different forms. The wrap-around story is that of three gang members on their way to pick up drugs from a funeral home (and they didn't question this, for real) and they get roped into hearing the mortician--played by the naturally frightening Clarence Williams III--and his strange tales. It's a weird set up that will have you either rolling your eyes half way through or still wondering WTF to the end but oh well. It's not a great movie or a perfect movie, but by damn it's original and pretty successful at being both scary (well, to me...dolls) and thought provoking.

The first story, Rogue Cop Revelation, is about extremely crooked white cops who take their new black recruit Clarence on patrol and the white cops end up beating a known (fictional) black civil rights activist to death and smearing his name posthumously. Clarence, who only sat by and watched this brutal beating and never reported it, ends up resigning and turning to demon booze to cure his, well, demons. Until a mural of the slain activist, Martin Moorehouse, compels him to bring his murderers to his grave for revenge, and zombie hijinks ensue.

I think this story probably ends up being the most successful because it's so damn close to life without going over the top, except for the, uh, zombie. Corrupt white cops killing a black man trying to make change? Minus the whole undead revenge thing (and the, uh, creative way in which one of the officers is killed) you can't tell me that shit doesn't sound awful familiar. The ending is also rather unexpected, in a good way...let's just say that no one really escapes Moorehouse's revenge, and it leaves you just thinking about it. It's not so much the undead soul that gets you, it's the fact that this DOES happen, sometimes right under our noses, always unfairly, and will unfortunately probably continue happening unless some serious change comes about *sigh*

The second story deals with domestic abuse and child abuse in a way I think is pretty damn believable. It's called Boys Do Get Bruised and it's about a little boy, Walter, dealing with a "monster" in his life. Well...I take that back, the story's believable but the way it's carried out kind of made me cringe at times. Mostly the teacher, I was wondering a few times where the hell he got off. And...yeah those signs of abuse were pretty damn obvious I thought. Goodness. The acting also just took a random dip in this piece. There's also a little not-totally-obvious hueism going on (dark skin=bad light skin=savior). Anyway, Walter finds a way to express himself through art, which proves to be deadly. Pretty good, but deadly. Boy musta had weak bones.

Aside from the annoying ass acting I found this also pretty successful in conveying its message. It's about a boy dealing with his abusive home life the only way he can--he draws the "monsters" he wants to destroy then crumples the paper up, effectively mangling them it seems. First he takes his vengeance out on a bully then on the real monster in his life. I felt particularly close to it because art & stories is the way I tried to express what was going on in my life at various times. I still remember the rather gruesome pictures of women and heads on stakes that I used to conjure *shudder* it's disturbing. The only place this fails I think is length. It's probably the shortest story and doesn't really bother to get all into the story, just abused boy & savior teacher. Not a lot to go on and it makes it pretty cliche. And the...uh...fight scenes. David Alan Grier was apparently using the force on people.

That's the first two stories...I'll talk about the other two later on in the week.

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