In 1995, the horror anthology Tales From The Hood took on topics ranging from police brutality, to the KKK, and killer dolls. At this year’s Fantasia Film Festival, original director Rusty Cundieff returned with collaborator Darin Scott to present the much anticipated follow-up. Not shying away from major social issues, Tales From The Hood 2 takes a close look at Trump’s America through horror-comedy eyes. This time the anthology deals with race and misogyny through tales of vampires, ghosts, and the devil himself. The morning after the film’s world premiere, Cundieff and Scott sat down with us to talk about creating anthology films and how to choose which social issues to give the horror treatment.
Last night was the world premiere of Tales From The Hood 2. How was it watching the film with an audience?
Rusty Cundieff: Wonderful. Yeah. First time we've seen it on the big screen and finished. I hope not the last time with a big audience.
Darin Scott: Their response was fun to see. To hear the reactions, where jokes landed, where scares landed, where emotions landed.
Were there any jokes that you were surprised about as far as how big of a laugh they got? Were there any surprises from the audience?
Cundieff: They laughed when the Cards Against Humanity shot came on the screen. They realized that they were going to play that game. I didn’t expect them to laugh.
The movie that directly preceded it [Unfriended: Dark Web] had a scene where they play Cards Against Humanity. It was the second film in a row in that same theater, where there was a Cards Against Humanity scene.
Cundieff: It's funny. Yeah. I guess I didn't know that was a year ago. I am asked some younger friends. I’ve got a scene where they are playing a game. I know Monopoly, but that’s too old. So what are more kids playing these days?
Have you played it yourself?
Cundieff: I have not played it myself. I went on and saw transcripts of games or the answers, and possible answers and questions, which I guess shift around. So all of those questions and all of those answers are actually from the game. Didn't make any of it up. Interesting game.
The Date Night segment of Tales from the Hood 2 takes on more gender politics than racial. Were there other topics you wanted to tackle that you didn’t get to?
Cundieff: Oh sure, there are so many social issues, political issues exploding in the United States. We've got a list of stores that we want to do, but definitely we felt that this time racial politics and gender issues are right on the front burner for Tales. For it to be as topical as possible.
Scott: The whole immigration issue is important. Yeah, that definitely deserves some attention.
Cundieff: We’ve got ideas around that for the next one.
It has been nearly 25 years since the first Tales From The Hood. Have you been working on various versions since then?
Scott: Yeah. Well, we've worked on different stories and we've written things. We were trying to get it done, then at a certain point of the deal it would fall apart. We have other stuff written that's kind of sitting there, waiting. Do you remember the whole Dylann Roof thing? I have got a story that's dealing with that. That generation of the psychopath. We got a thing about a guy who's a militia type. There are all these things that are out there, that we've talked about. As you put the film together, it's a combination of what seems current, what our budget is, how long different stories are, etc. We have a story about child abuse that we were going to put it in this one, but didn’t make it. You're dealing with humanity and humanity has gotten so much fucked up shit that there's always something there. That really was the jumping off point for this, for the first Tales. The monster in the room is us, and redemption comes through the supernatural as opposed to running away from it. We're cheering for it. I think that that's one of the things that makes Tales unique.
Cundieff: The social problems that we deal with have a proven track record over time. Not to say that no progress is made. These things stick. If you look at the first Tales From The Hood which deals with police brutality, domestic violence, black on black crime, and racist politicians, we could we make that script today. It would be just as topical. We would only have to tinker with it, which is disappointing.
Even with the various Trump references, those nods would not have felt out of place ten years ago.
Scott: And what's interesting is the level of the insanity. Right now the level is at 9.8. Maybe 10 or 12 years ago you'd say it's like at a two. When you hear some people talk about what now has become the alt-right, the group of that mindset, they're always there at some certain level. As the snowball rolls down the hill, they pick up some people. The people with that leaning in their head couldn’t really say anything. But now, oh, we're okay with that shit?
Horror and comedy are two ways that you can really work through some really heavy stuff. They can put tough topics in a safe space where you're laughing at it or you're scared of it, but then you get to retreat to your regular life. Is there a discussion of the manner to address each topic, comedy or horror?
Cundieff: We brainstorm stories but we never really brainstorm what the tone is going to be. The tonal flow of the movie is important. Generally you put the heaviest thing last. If you put the heavy thing first, then people aren't in the mood for the humor. So it starts with a lot of almost absurdist humor. And then it's more serious. The last two episodes, obviously, are darker. Then, at the end, we bring you back. He yells, “Welcome to hell. motherfuckers!” We'll probably end up with that on our tombstones.
Is the order of the segments determined before you shoot?
Scott: When you read it, you go, “oh, okay, well this one has this element, this element.” We definitely spent some time talking about which one should be first, second, third. The first one is comedic, but it’s thematically what Tales started out as. It's dealing with an African American issue. So it seemed like a good one to be first. The last one has a lot of African American, black, racial stuff. It is way too heavy. The other ones in the middle have it, but they're not the same. It's not the same level. We were trying to see if there's a way we could do the wraparound and keep it open to switching.
A few nights ago Fantasia screened Nightmare Cinema. They shot their segments before determining the order, so it is interesting to hear a different approach to anthology filmmaking.
Scott: It was interesting watching that. I could see that they can shuffle them around because they're wraparound just doesn't pay off in that way. It’s a lot more open than what we are doing, so I can see that they have that ability.
Your wraparound has escalation. We can see the subtle changes in Keith David’s clothes as the film progresses.
Scott: That's good. You know, we played it so many times, so many people didn't pick up on it. Maybe here you saw it because it's on a big screen.
You mentioned possibly turning this into either another feature or a TV show. I hate that there's so much material for it.
Cundieff: We’ll have no trouble coming up with stories for multiple seasons.
Scott: We've been trying to get this done as a TV show for many years. It's ironic that now there are so many anthology shows, more than when we started. Now we’ve got [Jordan] Peele doing one or two; he's got a second anthology show. Two different ones. Black Mirror. Guillermo del Toro is getting ready to do one. But ours will be unique from all of those.
Cundieff: Jordan, I don't know what he's planning. I’m sure there will be social content. And he is brilliant. Really brilliant. But Tales From The Hood has its own very unique perspective. There's definitely room for both.