I could not begin to explain what inspired me to include this bit of movie in my horror movie reviews for the month aside from the inability to ignore a horror movie that not only looked nearly unwatchable, but also had Snoop Dogg, or Snoop Lion as he now refers to himself, as a narrator and character within its plot. I clicked play on this expecting it to be god-awful only to be surprised by some surprisingly good production value and interesting story concepts. Of course the acting is not great and many of the messages being propagated throughout the film are all too on the nose, to steal a phrase used buy the guys over at Battleship Pretension, you can "see the strings" all over this film, but considering that the film aims to be a B-movie and nothing more, this blatant use of metaphor and message is at the very least tolerable. If we take a film like Hood of Horror's at face value it could be much worse, say in the realm of some of the Leprechaun sequels, yet between the anime style connecting scenes, a hip soundtrack and what can only be describe as an earnest attempt to make a set of horror shorts, this is a rousingly good time as far as schlocky contemporary horror is concerned. Were it not for the absolute thrill that The Host has proven to be, I would gladly place Hood of Horror's at the top of the horror films for 2006, although with the exception of the previously mentioned films it was not a particularly stellar year for horror regardless, or films in general, unless you found yourself living in a foreign country, say Spain or Germany. I am sure as this months ends and I return to watching non-genre films, Hood of Horrors will become lost in the past, but for the moment I want to relish in its simple enjoyment. One could say that Hood of Horrors is almost Shakespearian...almost.
As noted Hood of Horrors exists as a set of short films within a larger narrative centering around the experiences of Devon (Snoop Dogg/Lion), also known as HOH, a ex-gangsta turned demon who sold his soul in order to bring back the life of his sister, whom he accidentally murdered. His life as a demon requires that he go about taking the lesser spirits of the world back to hell, of course allowing them first to die on Earth. The first story focuses on Polsie (Danielle Alonso) a young girl who is a graffiti artist with a penchant for avenging the murder of her mother at the hands of her insane father. In order to gain this she obtains dark powers from a warlock named Derelict (Danny Trejo) that allows her to use her spray can to literally x out people from living, often in very grotesque ways. yet when her love for killing becomes an obsession, Derelict takes away her power and she is visited by the zombies of those she has killed, eventually leading to her death against a church wall that she had agreed to paint, making her, as Devon suggests an example of life imitating art. The second narrative, less horror oriented focuses on a racist slumlord named Tex Junior (Anson Mount) who attempts to take a shelter created by his father for black Vietnam veterans and turn it into his own den of iniquity. After the death of a member of the group the veterans exact revenge on their Tex Junior, in yet another gory moment. The third story focuses on rapper Sod (Pooch Hall) making a deal with God to become a famous rapper, which leads to him meeting Quon (Aries Spears) and becoming famous instantaneously. However, power and fame goes to Sod's head causing him to become prideful and envious to the point of killing Quon and act that leads to him being confronted by one of God's servants who uses a television to help him realize the err of his ways, as well as calling upon an apparition of the dead Quon to cause Sod to kill his guard/henchman Jersey, played by over the hill professional wrestler Diamond Dallas Page. Eventually, in paranoia Sod takes on an entire police squad only to die in a hail of bullets, alone and abandoned by God.
Revenge, pride and racism all inhabit the rhetoric of the stories told within Hood of Horrors, sure they are a bit on the nose and laughable in their construction, but I find it to be reflective of many of urban black films and their attempts to rationalize urban black experiences. Whether it be in the serious and cinematic manner of Menace II Society, or in the satirical and exploitative ways of something like Black Dynamite heavy handed metaphor seems to be the route used to approach such narratives. Hood of Horrors, while certainly entrenched in notions of the gang lifestyle and rags to riches rap rhetoric, seriously condemns the acts that have become all to common in urban neighborhoods, such as those of Southern Los Angeles, the home of none other thanSnoop Dogg/Lion himself. The problem with these films is that they become a bit essentialist in how they portray black lifestyle in this particular section of the United States as being incredibly nihilistic and promote escapism over activism and change. Compare it to the self-reflective manner of something like Spike Lee's Do The Right Thing, or Julie Dash's experimental portrayal of an African-American community in Daughters of the Dust and you have a film that is less than stellar in its social critique of hood life and its problems. Of course, I would never imagine that this film set out to be the harbinger of commentary and demand for change in urban black communities, yet it attempts to say some considerably pertinent things and, as such, its methods must be critiqued.
Key Scene: The anime-style scenes are gory in a simulation manner that makes them somewhat fun to watch without being absurd or sickening.
I am in no way leaping at the opportunity to recommend this movie as a must watch film, but should you find yourself with a hour and some change of free time then by all means check out Hood of Horrors, if only for Jason Alexander's terrible British accent.