The appropriately titled "Tales From the Hood" is an urban riff on the "Creepshow" and "Tales From the Crypt" motif, anthological horror with four short stories being told in the framework of a wraparound tale.
What sets "Hood" apart, however, is that each yarn is designed to evoke a serious social ill an interesting idea that only works part of the way.
The film begins promisingly enough with three young "gangstas" (De'Aundre Bonds, Joe Torrey, Samuel Monroe Jr.) reluctantly approaching a spooky funeral home where they have arranged to buy marijuana from a creepy mortician (played with evil glee by Clarence Williams III yes, the guy from the old "Mod Squad" television program).
The mortician is this film's version of "The Crypt Keeper," relating the four stories and weirding-out the youths more and more as the film progresses.
And the stories do get better as they go along, though all of them will seem overly familiar to fans of the genre.
The first tale echoes the Rodney King situation, as a local activist who has been getting the goods on corrupt cops finds himself victimized and ultimately murdered in retaliation. The central character is a black rookie policeman who feels guilty that he didn't step in and help. After leaving the force, he is ordered by the victim's haunting voice to help him get revenge on the killers. In the end, however, the conclusion proves to be rather unimaginative.
The second yarn has a young boy being recognized by a schoolteacher as a victim of abuse. The boy says he is being brutalized by "The Monster" at home, but the teacher, naturally, figures it's one of his parents. This one is notable for its use of comic actor David Alan Grier in a serious role, and is the most visually inventive of the quartet.
Third is the story of a former Ku Klux Klan member (Corbin Bernsen, of TV's "L.A. Law") who is running for governor in a southern state. A bigot masquerading as a reformed man, he gets his comeuppance from vengeance-minded dolls that contain the souls of former slaves.
And the fourth has to do with gang members, as a young man commits murder, goes to prison and finds himself in a "Clockwork Orange"-style rehabilitation experiment that could bring him freedom.
Ultimately, the film's conclusion centers around the three young thugs as they demand that the mortician give them the drugs. And though it is not terribly surprising, the climax ties into one of the four stories.
"Tales From the Hood" is rated R for considerable violence and gore, wall-to-wall profanity, some sex, drugs and brief nudity.