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Tales from the Hood 2
Horror, History, Humor & Politics

September 22nd, 2018

“All of that art-for-art’s-sake stuff is BS. What are these people talking about? Are you really telling me that Shakespeare and Aeschylus weren’t writing about kings? All good art is political!” – Toni Morrison

Morrison’s words are particularly relevant to the horror genre. After all, horror literature is all about powers beyond comprehension. It’s true in the genre’s seminal works (think Dante’s Inferno), and it’s certainly true with horror stories today.

Case in point is Tales from the Hood 2, the new anthology film from Rusty Cundieff and Darrin Scott, which serves up a mix of timely jokes, jolts, and meditations on contemporary politics.

I caught the film at the Fantasia International Film Festival, where it screened along with the world premiere of Nightmare Cinema. Here’s what I had to say about it in a brief blog post the following day:

Tales from the Hood 2, from filmmakers Rusty Cundieff and Darrin Scott, is a topical mix of dark comedy and thought-provoking horror. I can’t recommend it enough, but I will try my damnedest in tomorrow’s post.

Although I may have tried my damnedest, that post didn’t appear the next day. But now – with Hood 2 scheduled for release in two weeks – I’m at last making good on my promise.

Coming more than 20 years after the original Tales from the Hood, the sequel opens with a wrap-around segment titled “Robo Hell,” in which Keith David plays Portifoy Simms, a 21st-century scop hired to help program Robo Patriot — a sentient robot that operates on a kind of next-generation AI software known as RI (Real Intelligence).  As one of the developers tells Simms, RI enables Robo Patriot to “learn from second-hand experience — stories, fables, tales. And that’s where you come in.”

The conceit: Simms will help the Robo Patriot develop a sense of justice by telling it stories, the first of which is titled “Good Golly.”

“Good Golly” opens with two friends, Audrey (Alexandria DeBerry) and Zoe (Jasmine Akako), visiting the Museum of Negrosity in search of golliwogs, rag dolls fashioned as racists caricatures. Audrey had a golliwog as a child. She thinks they’re cute, and though the museum’s curator explains that the dolls were an attempt to perpetuate racial stereotypes and are not for sale, she refuses to be turned away.

Presented with equal doses of history, horror, and humor, “Good Golly” accelerates into what appears at times to recall the “Amelia” segment of Richard Matheson’s Trilogy of Terror. But where Matheson went for thrills, “Good Golly” has another agenda — a lesson that doesn’t become clear to the golliwog shoppers until it’s too late.

The next segment, “Medium,” centers on TV psychic John Lloyd (Bryan Batt from Mad Men). Dealing with a band of gangsters who put their trust in Lloyd’s pseudo skills, this episode is perhaps the most straightforwardly entertaining of the four, offering a humorous riff on the blurred line between reality TV and the realities of life. It benefits from energetic performances and twists reminiscent of Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone.

Perhaps inspired by the Me-Too movement, “Date Night” centers on a pair of pick-up artists who pass themselves off as casting directors. Their plans go south when they meet Carmen and Liz — aspiring actresses who are not what they seem. It’s a story of predators becoming prey that plays like an allegory for our times.

As Hood 2 draws to a close, storyteller Simms presents his grand finale, a poignant ghost story about a politician haunted by past civil-rights leaders and victims of racial injustice. Depicting such historical figures in film is challenging, yet Cundeiff and Scott pull this one off beautifully. In all, it’s a timely meditation on race in America.

The final act returns us to the film’s wrap-around device. Here, the RI robot has listened to the stories and is ready to apply what it has learned. As you might imagine, things do not go quite the way the robot’s designers had planned.

Speaking with Rusty Cundeiff and Darrin Scott following their Fantasia premier, I discovered we share a fondness for the old Twilight Zone series and the way writers like Rod Serling and Richard Matheson used horror as an allegory to comment on timely issues and social injustice.

With Tales of the Hood 2, the Cundeiff-Scott team is carrying that tradition into the 21st century.

Tales from the Hood 2 comes out on home video on October 2.


Images

  • Promotional images from Tales from the Hood 2, Universal Pictures Home Entertainment, 2018
  • A view from the stage during Rusy Cundeiff and Darrin Scott’s Q&A session at The Fantasia International Film Festival. Photo by Vincent Fréchette, 13 July 2018.

Welcome to My Nightmares:
A Video Essay on Cinematic Monsters

July 2nd, 2018

You’ve heard of man-made monsters. Today, let’s consider a video essay about a monster-made man … or at least a monster-made writer. Namely: the 21st-Century Scop.

Here’s the backstory: Last year I was invited to take part in a speaker series sponsored by the Uniontown Library. Helmed in part by author Heidi Ruby Miller (who also organized the successful Pennsylvania Literary Festival), the program included a series of promotional videos in which authors spoke about influences on their writing.

Thus, they had writers such as Michael A. Arnzen sharing Three Great Things about Horror, John Edward Lawson on Three Great Things about Poetry, and Matt Betts on Three Great Things about Godzilla.

Unfortunately, I was neck-deep in other commitments when Heidi contacted me a to take part in the series. Nevertheless, if they could wait, I was sure I could put together a video in time for an August 2018 visit to the library. An August appearance would follow the premiere of Nightmare Cinema, and I figured the topic Three Great Things about Scary Movies would make for a timely tie-in to the film. Alas, the speaker series concluded in May. Time waits for no one.

Nevertheless, Heidi’s Three-Great-Things premise got me thinking. It turned out I had a few things to say about scary movies. So I decided to shoot my own video, a slice of memoir explaining how monsters influenced (corrupted?) my childhood. Press play. I’ll tell you all about it.

Big Things Cooking in September:
Milford Writers & Son of Monsterpalooza

September 8th, 2017

Big things are brewing this month, with the Milford Readers and Writers Festival on the east coast and Son of Monsterpalooze on the west – both on the same weekend (September 15-17) and 3,000 miles apart.

Makes me wish I had a teleporter.

Nevertheless, despite the distance and the impossibility of two places at once, I’m eagerly looking forward to both.

As science-fiction guest of honor at the Milford Festival, I’ll be taking part a program that will include a marathon screening of the original five seasons of The Twilight Zone, fiction readings at the historic Dimmick Inn on September 16, and a panel discussion at the Milford Theater on September 17. Among the other writers featured at these events will be Paul Witchover, Robert Levy, John Grant, and Gordon Van Gelder. Good company, indeed.

Paul Witcover is the author of five novels, most recently The Watchman of Eternity and a collection of short stories. He has been a finalist for the Nebula, World Fantasy, Shirley Jackson and Locus Awards.

Robert Levy’s  novel The Glittering World was a finalist for both the Lambda Literary Award and the Shirley Jackson Award.  His shorter work has recently appeared in Black Static, Shadows & Tall Trees, Wild Stories:  The Year’s Best Gay Speculative Fiction and The Best Horror of the Year.

John Grant is the author of about seventy books, including twenty fiction novels and non-fiction books that include the highly successful Discarded Science, Corrupted Science and others. He has won the Hugo Award twice, the World Fantasy Award and various other international literary awards.

Gordon Van Gelder is the publisher of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, the long-running publication that first brought us such sf classics as Stephen King’s Dark Tower, Daniel Keyes’s Flowers for Algernon, Walter M. Miller’s A Canticle for Leibowitz, and Robert H. Heinlein’s serial “Starship Soldier” (which later became the novel Starship Troopers). It is the magazine that first introduced me to the genre when I was in my early teens, and it remains the one publication that I read cover to cover the moment it arrives. Gordon also served for many years as the editor of F&SF, and during that time I had the pleasure of working with him on a number of stories that appeared there between 2001 and 2013.

The Milford Festival’s science-fiction track is being organized by Lillian Longendorfer, whose first novel The Quad Consortium and the Sword of Bale was published in 2015.

And while those sf writers are gathering on on the East Coast, Mick Garris and friends will be holding a special preview event at Son of Monsterpalooza at the Burbank Marriott Convention Center in California. The weekend event will feature dozens of celebrity guests from the worlds of horror, science fiction, and fantasy, with a featured event taking place on September 17, when a panel presentation will be lifting the veil of secrecy on Nightmare Cinema, our new anthology horror film that will be coming to theaters next year!

Joining Mick at the event will be directors  Joe Dante (Gremlins), Alejandro Brugues (Juan of the Dead), and David Slade (30 Days of Night). I hear that Ryuhei Kitamura (Midnight Meat Train), who is also involved in the project, has another commitment for the weekend and will not be attending. Nevertheless, he’ll be there in spirit, as will I.

So mark your calendar for a bicoastal weekend of science fiction, fantasy, and horror … and be sure to stop back here for more updates in the days ahead. It’s going to be an exciting month.

 

Penguin Bookshop, Nightmare Cinema,
& “This Way to Egress”

April 21st, 2016

Nightmare Cinema presents This Way to Egress (2)Don’t go to sleep! Nightmares are coming.

On Wednesday, April 27, I’ll be visiting the Penguin Bookshop in Sewickley to talk about writing stories and adapting them for film. Along the way, I’ll be sharing some of the latest news about Nightmare Cinema, the forthcoming feature film that will include an adaptation of my story “Traumatic Descent.”

Created by Mick Garris, Nightmare Cinema is an anthology film (think Steven Spielberg’s Twilight Zone: The Movie, George Romero’s Creepshow, or the classic Dead of Night) composed of five short films by five different directors. Here’s how a new promotional release describes the project:

Fdirectors NCive acclaimed directors of the most macabre horror films from around the world, tell new blood-curdling stories, all carefully curated into the multi-platform feature film, Nightmare Cinema. It’s a selection of one-of-a-kind tales of terror that turns the genre conventions on their heads, but without every giving up the primary desire to scare the hell out of the audience.

The directors are Alejandro Brugués (Juan of the Dead), Joe Dante (Gremlins, Matinee), Mick Garris (Stephen King’s The Stand, Sleepwalkers), Ryuhei Kitamura (The Midnight Meat Train) and David Slade (Hard Candy, 30 Days of Night, and the acclaimed NBC television series Hannibal).

Alejandro Brugués and Mick Garris will each direct their own screenplays, “The Thing in the Woods” and “Dead.”

Matheson and BecerrilRyuhei Kitamura will direct “Mashit,” written by Sandra Becerril. Making her home in Mexico City, she is the author of numerous novels, short stories, and film scripts. Her work is well known to horror fans in Mexico, Argentina, and Spain, and her forthcoming film Desde tu Infierno (checkout the trailer here) and Nightmare Cinema are sure to win her plenty of new fans from around the world.

No stranger to American audiences is Richard Christian Matheson, whose script “Mirari” is being directed by Joe Dante. Following in the footsteps of his father, the great Richard Matheson, R. C. Matheson is the author of  the short story collections Scars and Other Distinguishing Marks and Dystopia; the novel Created By; and the magic-realism novella “The Ritual of Illusion.” He has also written extensively for television, including two scripts for Mick Garris’s Masters of Horror.

Rounding out the Nightmare Cinema roster will be “This Way to Egress,” directed by David Slade, from our collaborative adaptation of my story “Traumatic Descent.”

Nightmare Cinema TW2ELinking the five episodes in Nightmare Cinema will be a wraparound story written and directed by Mick Garris. Here’s the synopsis:

Sitting at the edge of a deserted town, under the guise of a decrepit theatre, is the gateway between heaven and hell. It can only be found by tortured souls, lost in a place of unknown time and origin.

In this twisted anthology, at least one character from each of the five shorts arrives at the cinematic purgatory, unaware of their fate. Upon entering the theatre, they are forced to watch their deepest and darkest fears play out before them. Lurking in the shadows is the Projectionist, who preys upon their souls with his collection of disturbing film reels. As each reel spins its sinister tale, the characters find frightening parallels to their own lives. 

But by the time they realize the truth, escape is no longer an option. For once the ticket is torn, their fate is sealed at NIGHTMARE CINEMA.

This Way to Egress by Lawrence C. ConnollyWant to hear more? If so, I’ll be glad to share a few more highlights at this month’s installment of the Penguin Bookshop Writers Series (PBWS), which gets under way at 6:30 pm on April 27. If you live in the Pittsburgh area, I hope you’ll consider dropping by for a conversation about books and writing in one of the region’s great independent bookstores.

The Penguin has been a fixture in Sewickley, Pennsylvania, since 1929.  With six different owners and three different locations over the last 85-plus years,  the Penguin has remained a vital community institution thanks to the continued loyalty of its customers and the passion of its booksellers. It remains one of the local and regional community’s greatest treasures.

PBWS-small-e1439910444421PBWS presents authors and publishing professionals each month who discuss aspects of both the art and the business of writing. The format ranges from hands-on workshops to lectures and panel discussions. The goal of PBWS is to unite published writers with aspiring writers, aspiring writers with publishing professionals, and curious readers interested in the author’s craft with professional writers.

In short, you won’t want to miss this one. Bring your friends . . . and let the nightmares begin.

Credits:

  • Nightmare Cinema promotional copy & images, copyright © 2016 Good Deed Entertainment.
  • Sandra Becerril, twitter.com.
  • Richard Christian Matheson, thorneandcross.wordpress.com.
  • Cover of This Way to Egress, copyright © 2010 Jason Zerrillo.
  • Writers Series logo & the history of Penguin Bookshop and PBWS are from penguinbookshop.com.