Clarence Williams III in TALES FROM THE HOOD (1995)
Clarence Williams III in TALES FROM THE HOOD (1995)

It’s taken a while, but finally more older black films are being remastered and released on blu-ray. But then that should have been expected. With DVD sales down and most studios relying on their recent releases for blu-rays, they’re becoming desperate; but to what end? Is it really necessary for Paramount to release nine different blu ray editions of “Star Trek: Beyond”? The film was a bust at the box office, so what makes the studio think that audiences are going to shell out money for one or more of those blu-ray editions? Fox is releasing seven different versions of “X Men: Apocalypse” which everyone hated. Putting out that many different versions isn’t going to help them.

However, in the meantime smaller specialty labels such as Twilight Time, Kino and Shout Factory are picking up the slack and being very successful, releasing older film titles from the 1940’s to the late 80’s that film lovers and older audiences have been waiting for; the kind of titles that the home video divisions of the major studios won’t touch since they don’t see huge profits coming from them.

As a result, older black films from the 70’s to the 90’s are now finally coming out, brand spanking new and remastered, on blu-ray, because these smaller distribution labels realize that there’s a market for those films as well. Blaxplotitation films, black art and foreign films, and just regular non-specialty black films are slowly making their way to blu-ray.

We can now add Rusty Cundieff’s cult horror film “Tales from the Hood” to the list, which was originally released in 1995 by the long defunct Savoy Pictures. It comes almost just in time as audiences dig into one of very few recent black horror films to be released in theaters (also written and directed by black talent) – “Get Out” – opens to strong weekend box office; a movie that tackles racism in a satirical way, while also staying true to horror film genre conventions. Although it’s not the first film to do so.

Audiences seem to overlook Cundieff’s “Tales from the Hood” which also combines straight horror with wild satirical takes on racism; it was released back in 1995 and is finally coming out on blu-ray in April, via Shout Factory.

Co-written and directed by Cundieff (“Fear of the Black Hat”, “White Water”), “Tales from the Hood” is an updated clever twist on those British Amicus Production anthology horror films, which were very popular during the 60’s and 70’s, like “Tales from the Crypt”, “The House That Dripped Blood”, “Asylum” and “Beyond the Grave” among others. The premise of those films were basically the same, following a group of strangers who come together to face some evil presence, like a fortune teller and an insane asylum director; and in series in flash forward or flashback sequences, they learn how they will die, or how they died, in some gruesome way.

In “Hood”, a bunch of wanna-be thugs visit a funeral parlor run by a kooky, creepy mortician (Clarence Williams III) with the intention of buying drugs from him, for them to sell on the street. Of course, they each get more than they bargained for when Williams instead tells them four grim horror stories that creep them out, until they learn their ultimate fate for their sins.

Not only does “Hood” effectively lampoon the whole Amicus anthology premise, but it also makes effective commentary (sometimes humorously, sometimes seriously) on a whole range of issues, particular on the black experience, like hip-hop’s love of drug culture, as well as problems like racism and police brutality.

Maybe some things in the film will be dated today (it is, after all, over 20 years old), but “Hood” still packs a punch; and it’s great news that Shout Factory (the horror film subsidiary of Shout Factory) announced that it will be releasing “Tales from the Hood” this year on blu-ray, along with nine other horror film titles from the mid 1960’s up to the early 90’s.

Shout Factory now has an April 18, 2017 release date for the Collections Edition; although no word on what extras will be included on the “Hood” blu-ray. It would be hard to imagine that there wouldn’t be at least a commentary by Cundieff himself on the making of the film.

Here’s the trailer for “Tales from the Hood.”