Tales from the Hood was woke before woke was woke, addressing issues that are still central to the social justice conversation today, from police brutality to institutional racism to the socio-economic conditions of the inner city. As “hood cinema” fell out of favor by the turn of the century, however (Leprechaun’s attempts to salvage it be damned), efforts to produce a sequel came up empty, and when Obama’s election supposedly ended racism, chances of turning the film into a franchise faded into oblivion. It says a lot, then, about the state of the current era in which we live that after a 23-year span with no Tales from the Hood movies, there’s been a perceived need for TWO sequels in the past three years.
Tales from the Hood 3 is the first in the series without central storyteller Mr. Simms, so memorably originated by Clarence Williams III and then inherited by Keith David in the sequel. This time around, writers-directors Rusty Cundieff and Darin Scott wisely recruit horror icon Tony Todd as the face of the film — although he’s not the storyteller, but rather the one to whom the stories are told. In the wraparound story, “The Mouths of Babes and Demons,” he plays a man ushering a young girl through a gloomy, desolate landscape with “monsters” hot on their trail. Along the way, she asks if she can tell him some tales to pass the time…
In “Ruby Gates,” a greedy apartment owner resorts to extreme measures to force out his tenants so he can build luxury condos. In “The Bunker,” a white supremacist recluse spouts hate-fueled rhetoric on a pirate radio broadcast while a mysterious presence hovers along the boundary of his property. In “Operatic,” a wannabe singer teams up with a wannabe producer in a deadly get rich-quick scheme. And in “Dope Kicks,” a serial criminal is cursed by a family member of one of his victims.
Like previous entries, Tales from the Hood 3 addresses social ills plaguing black folks — in this instance, racism, gentrification, crime and hacky R&B — in a straightforward manner that leaves little open to interpretation. Even in this era of “woke” edutainment, this sort of bluntness feels refreshing, the brevity of the anthology format making it imperative that filmmakers get to the point quickly.
The standout story here is “The Bunker,” a clear reaction to the Trump administration’s penchant for fanning the flames of racial tension through tacit approval of white supremacist groups and hate speech. It’s the least predictable of the five tales and has the most unique format — essentially an extended, one-man monologue, handled expertly by veteran actor Cooper Huckabee (whom you might remember from Tobe Hooper’s The Funhouse) and written by Cundieff with razor-sharp wit that pokes fun at the rabid ignorance of Trump’s most vocal supporters by peppering his speech with comically misused words (like “aggrandize” instead of antagonize, or the President’s “incarceration” instead of inauguration). The final twist is clever and fulfilling — granted, this tale is the least “horror” of the bunch, feeling like a better fit for a Twilight Zone episode.
The rest are solid but not terribly memorable, relying too much on the horror anthology mainstay: the revenge tale. All in all, Tales from the Hood 3 is in line with its predecessor as an engaging film that falls short of the original in both production value and impactful content. It’s less ambitious than Part 2 but more consistent. While I would welcome a fourth entry, let’s hope it’s not spurred by the further deterioration of the American socio-political climate.