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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.

Nightmare Cinema: Fall Festivals & Events

September 16th, 2018

These are busy times for the Nightmare Cinema team.

This weekend, Mick Garris (the film’s producer and writer/director of “Dead”) and Sandra Becerril (writer of the Ryûhei Kitamura directed “Mashit”) are in Strasbourg for the film’s French premiere at FEFFS — Le Festival européen du film fantastique. The premiere will take place at a special midnight screening on Monday, September 17, with additional screenings scheduled for September 18 and 23.

Since its launch in 2008, FEFFS has become one of Europe’s most comprehensive genre events, with a focus on international fantastic films as well as thrillers, film noir, black comedies, and even video games and virtual-reality cinema.

This year, the FEFFS Guest of Honor will be John Landis, director of Animal House, The Blues Brothers, An American Werewolf in London, and Into the Night (the film that made stars of Jeff Goldblum and Michele Feiffer).

While Mick Garris and Sandra Becerril are hosting the EU premiere at FEFFS, David Slade (“This  Way to Egress”) and  Ryûhei Kitamura (“Mashit”) will be in London and Japan respectively, with David working on the upcoming season of Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror and Ryûhei hosting the Japanese premiere of his thriller Downrange, which has been receiving strong notice since its L.A. premiere last spring. And there’s more, as some of the film’s actors and producers will be hosting a panel at Son of Monsterpalooza in Burbank.

Next month brings more premieres, with Nightmare Cinema screening in Spain and England before returning to Canada (where it had its world premiere at the Fantasia International Film Festival in July).

First up will be a UK premiere at Grimmfest in Manchester (October 4-7), where I’ve been invited to take part in a question-and-answer session following the film’s screening at the Odeon Theatre on October 6. There’s a chance that an additional guest could be joining me on stage to help celebrate the connection that “This Way to Egress” has to the Manchester-Sheffield area. More information coming soon, as I plan to blog about that connection soon and speak about it at the screening.  Please stand by!

Beginning the same week as Grimmfest, the Stiges Film Festival (October 5-14) — regarded by many as the world’s foremost film festival specializing in fantasy, horror and science fiction — will host Nightmare Cinema‘s Spanish premiere on Thursday, October 13.

Other Stiges highlights will include the Festival’s Grand Honorary Award (going to M. Night Shyamalan) and a special screening of the new 4k restoration of 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Running concurrently with Stiges, the 13th Annual Toronto After Dark Film Festival (October 11-19) will mark Nightmare Cinema’s return to Canada, where the film had its world premiere at the Fantasia International Film Festival on July 12.

It’s busy line-up indeed, and one that will enable more viewers to discover what capacity crowds in Montreal and Mexico City have already seen firsthand.

The Nightmare Cinema project has come a long way since producers, writers, and directors gathered at Xiomara on Melrose in December 2016 to celebrate the green-lighting of the film. And the excitement’s still just beginning.

Stop back soon for more updates … and for a special Grimmfest preview in which we’ll consider how the UK screening will be a homecoming of sorts for “This Way to Egress.”

Until then … scop on!

Images:

  • Above: Promotional graphics from Festival européen du film fantastique, the Japanese premiere of Ryûhei Kitamura’s Downrange, Grimmfest Film Festival, The Sitges International Fantastic Film Festival of Catalonia, and the Toronto After Dark Film Festival.
  • At right: Nightmare Cinema directors and writers gather at Xiomara on Melrose Avenue, L.A, on December 8, 2016. Pictured from left to right, front to back, are Alejandro Brugués, Ryûhei Kitamura, R.C. Matheson’s hands. Sandra Becerril, Lawrence Connolly, Mick Garris, Joe Dante.

Nightmare Cinema Premieres at Fantasia

July 13th, 2018

An enthusiastic crowd gathered well in advance of Nightmare Cinema’s premiere. By 9:00 last night, the line already stretched around the block, assuring a full house for a project that producer-director Mick Garris began dreaming up over a decade ago.

Shortly before 10:00, Festival Programmer Tony Timpone took the stage to introduce directors Mick Garris, Alejandro Brugues, Ryuhei Kitamura, and Joe Dante. (David Slade is in the UK working on the upcoming season of Black Mirror.)

Before the film, Joe Dante was honored with the Festival’s Lifetime Achievement Award, a presentation that included a montage of scenes from Joe’s five decades of filmmaking.

After Joe’s acceptance, the lights dimmed, and the 800 seat auditorium filled with animal sounds – mostly mewing – as it the audience members had suddenly transformed into cats. The mewing is a Festival tradition, and I must admit it’s pretty cool.

Then came Nightmare Cinema, the result of a collaborative effort of many producers, directors, writers, actors, and technicians (that’s 13 of us on the red carpet on the left).

I won’t review the film here. I’m too heavily invested in the project to be objective.

Instead, I encourage you to take a look at some of the reviews that have followed in the wake of last night’s premiere.

Here are some highlights:

  • “How Nightmare Cinema comes together is proof of exceptional teamwork and extraordinary planning. Each director brought their experience to the table to create something epic. As with any nightmare, this movie will have you thinking about it right after you watch it.” Read the entire review at Dread Central.
  • “This Way to Egress was truly nightmarish and weird, and of a completely different kind of horror than anything up to this point. This one leaves you unsettled….” Read the entire review at Nerdist.
  • This Way to Egress is perhaps the film’s most psychologically disturbing. It follows a mother of two who is hallucinating — or is she? — that the people she meets are transforming into monsters.” Read the entire review at Entertainment Weekly.

That’s just a sampling. Check them out if you like, and while you do, I’ll be putting together some reflections on how the Nightmare Cinema segment “This Way to Egress compares to the original story “Traumatic Descent.”

Stop back here tomorrow for more updates from the Festival. We’ll save you a place.

Images:

The standing ovation for Joe Dante’s Lifetime Achievement Award. Photo by Joe Dante.

Alejandro Brugues, Mick Garris, Ryuhei Kitamura, and Joe Dante outside the Auditorium des Diplomes de la SGWU. Photo by the 21st-Century Scop. 

Thirteen members of the Nightmare Cinema team on the red carpet following the premiere. Fantasia Film Festival.

Lunch before the premiere (clockwise from lower left) Alejandro Brugues, Kyle Newmaster, Ryuhei Kitamura, Lawrence Connolly, Stephanie Caleb, Mick Garris, Sandra Becerril, Joe Russo, Joe Dante, and G. Brandon Hill. Photo by Sergio Becerril.

Nightmare Cinema Premieres at Fantasia

July 13th, 2018

An enthusiastic crowd gathered well in advance of Nightmare Cinema’s premiere. By 9:00 last night, the line already stretched around the block, assuring a full house for a project that producer-director Mick Garris began dreaming up over a decade ago.

Shortly before 10:00, Festival Programmer Tony Timpone took the stage to introduce directors Mick Garris, Alejandro Brugues, Ryuhei Kitamura, and Joe Dante … [read more at The 21st Century Scop].