Universal Home Entertainment has been doing a great job keeping franchises alive. Their greatest work is the Chucky sequels, which have been theatrical quality and taken the series in bold directions. Hard Target 2 was a strong Scott Adkins vehicle. Now they’ve made Tales from the Hood 2, a new horror anthology from the creators of the 1995 original.
Keith David takes over the role of storyteller Mr. Simms. Dumass Beach (Bill Martin Williams) hires Simms to tell his law enforcement robot stories so his A.I. can learn. Simms has cautionary tales about Gollywog dolls, a fraud psychic channeling victims of gang violence, dude bros getting their comeuppance for date rape and the ghosts of historic victims of racial violence.
Rusty Cundieff and Darin Scott wrote and directed the stories of Tales from the Hood 2. Cundieff spoke with me by phone about the long-awaited follow up to Tales From the Hood and shared plans to turn it into a series, and continue the film franchise. Tales from the Hood 2 is out Tuesday, October 2.
FF: Had you always wanted to do Tales from the Hood 2?
Rusty Cundieff: We’ve been trying to get it done for quite a while on and off. It was definitely something we wanted to do.
FF: Did it seem impossible after the original studio Savoy went under?
RC: It was more so once it ended up over at Universal, it just seemed like it wasn’t something that was high on their radar because it didn’t initiate with them originally. I think they just always felt that there were bigger things for them to do and I don’t know that they initially realized the fan base that was actually out there for Tales. Once we started talking to their direct to DVD/streaming division and they ran all the numbers they wanted to run, they could see there was an audience their. For a long time, whoever we tried to talk to over there just wasn’t that interested.
FF: The timing lines up but you tell me if I’m wrong, did the success of Get Out for them show how big an audience there could be for black driven horror films?
RC: I don’t know how direct that connection is but i would definitely say that certainly didn’t hurt. I’m sure on some level that had to play into their decision making process.
FF: Are any of the stories in Tales from the Hood 2 ideas you had in between movies, or all new stories you created when you got the go ahead from Universal?
RC: I would say they’re pretty much all knew. I‘m sure there are ideas that have percolated. Darin and I have a lot of stories that we’d like to do. When we started talking about doing Tales 2, we looked at a lot of different ideas that we had. It was a combination of what we thought would be topical and what we could afford to do based on the budget, which is definitely smaller than the budget we had on the first Tales. I think most of them we came up with after we knew we were going to have this opportunity.
FF: Was it easy to come up with stories relating to 2018 issues?
RC: Yeah, actually, we came up with a lot of different things. We came up with a lot of ideas. There’s so much going on right now. We probably have come with five or six ideas since doing Tales 2 just with all the things that are going on politically and socially in American culture and around the world right now. We’re actually hoping that there’s some way to turn this into a streaming series or TV series because we just have so many ideas that we’d like to explore.
FF: Would that be one tale per episode?
FF: Is Keith David interested in doing that?
RC: Keith mentioned when we were working with him that he always wanted to do an anthology series. If it gets going and he’s available we’ll see what happens. Obviously, we were thrilled to get him as the new Mr. Simms. It was a very short list, so short that it was pretty much Keith David or bust.
FF: Clarence Williams III last acted on an episode of Empire so I don’t know how much he still works, but did you ever reach out to him to review?
RC: I did reach out Clarence. He was very gracious in declining. That said, I do think the intensity that Keith brought to the role and his ability to make it his own, which we were confident that he would be able to do without trying to emulate the performance of Clarence Williams III, he does a fantastic job and we’re grateful that we got him.
RC: That was more of a discussion with our legal team who get worried any time you put in anything that’s real or play around with that. From a creative side, it didn’t seem to be a problem at all. It definitely wasn’t a problem between Darin and I. It was more dealing with the studio’s concerns and worries. That is probably one of the favorite things I’ve ever done, that particular episode.
FF: Do you still embrace a little campiness of Tales from the Hood, like the giant Golliwog doll and the robot?
RC: Yeah, that is kind of part of some of what we had in the first one, particularly when you were dealing with the dolls which was I guess the campier of the episodes in the first Tales from the Hood.
FF: And folding David Alan Grier.
RC: And folding David Alan Grier which is one of my other most favorite things I think that I’ve ever done. So yeah, we wanted it to have a lot of the same tone that the first one had, even though we didn’t have the money to do some of the bigger things that we would’ve liked to have done. We want that tone to be there, want that sense of fun to be there and the last episode is a bit of a departure, even from the first one. It’s a ghost story but it’s more of a Twilight Zone episode, maybe on the edge of horror but it’s more suspense than horror.
FF: Was the vampire story inspired by how you could do a story relating to #MeToo?
RC: A bit of it for sure. I think that’s one that stories like that we always felt were valid stories from the first one on. In the first one, the David Alan Grier story was about spousal abuse and child abuse. We’ve always felt that there are stories to be told when you’re dealing with gender inequality. Usually the inequality is pushed on females so I think we would’ve had a story similar to that whether there had been a #MeToo movement or not, but the #MeToo movement makes it a bit more current.
FF: Are Golliwogs real?
RC: Golliwogs dolls are very real. There are people that collect them. In fact, what the girl reads in the first book is more or less lifted to a degree out of the original Golliwog book which was written by an Englishwoman. There’s a whole “Golliwoggy and N***** go into town,” that is in the first book of which she wrote a few. There’s a whole series of Golliwog books. It is a real thing. The door that they walk through when they go into the Museum of Negrocity, that big mouth, and she says, “This is where we have to go through to get some chicken.” That is a real replica of a door that was on several different restaurants in various places around the country of a restaurant called The Coon Chicken Inn. If you google Coon Chicken Inn, you will find pictures of that restaurant, the door that you walked through which was this big face of a black caricature that you would go through. And then you’d see some real artifacts from the restaurant as well as probably some reproductions because people reproduce this stuff. In fact, someone reproduced neon, I found on Craigslist or something, neon images of the Coon Chicken inside.
FF: Did Spike Lee give input on Tales from the Hood 2 like he did on the first?
RC: Spike has always been a benevolent executive producer/overseer. Basically, he lets Darin and I do what we want to do. He comes in and protects us against the forces of corporate nervousness. When you’re dealing with these kind of things that are politically charged, racially charged and so on, quite honestly and understandably, a lot of companies are like, “Well, why do we want to deal with that? The risk of upsetting someone is not what we’re in business to do. We’re just in business to make money.” So having Spike, who is known for controversy, it helps us because it becomes a selling point as opposed to a negative. If his name is on it, then people know what they’re going to get. He in that way has been very helpful to our creative process, not so much in telling us what to do or editing what we do but more in terms of supporting it and making sure that our voice is heard the way we’d like it to be.
FF: Was there as much of that in 2018 as there was in 1995?
RC: Yeah, to a certain degree. He definitely helped us in ’95 and helped us in this film as well. The Golliwog episode would be different were it not for his involvement. That’s not saying that he changed anything. He just helped me to keep what was in there, in there. There were some things that otherwise corporate really would’ve been happy if I had taken out.
FF: In the first Tales, you did an episode on police violence and another on politicians. Is it a shame that those are still relevant?
RC: It’s sad that they’re so relevant. Definitely we could have almost just redone those stories and they would have worked. Duke was an early Trumper, an early Alt-righter to a degree. It is striking that those two particular stories, even as we thought about what’s right for these, we’re like, “Well, we’ve already kind of done that. We’ve already done police brutality. Is there a way to address it that is different than what we did before?” In this one, we just touch on it with the fact that Dumass Beach owns all these private prisons.
FF: Could there be a Tales 3 and a TV series, or is it one or the other?
RC: I think there can be both. I think the TV series, if we’re fortunate enough to get that done, would obviously be done at a certain level budget-wise. Our hope is that this does well enough so that if we were to do a Tales 3, we’d be able to get a bigger budget and play things on a bigger canvas. There’s a few stories that we have that we just couldn’t afford to do with the budget we had this time around. There’s definitely a hope that if we’d get to do a Tales 3 we can do it in a more expansive fashion.
FF: Was it any sort of fight to keep some practical gore effects in Tales from the Hood 2?
RC: No, we budgeted pretty well so from a financial standpoint, we knew what we could do and couldn’t do. I don’t think we had any pushback on any of the gore. It would only have occurred in the Golliwog episode. We did change the wraparound a bit because the studio was afraid it was too reflective of Trump. So that is a concession that we made. I think the point still comes across with Dumass Beach as this prison owner and the things he says. He still parrots that Trumpian line of shot in a lot of things.
FF: Was he always building a police robot though?
RC: He was always building a police robot. In an earlier draft, he was building it as a candidate for political office which made him even more of a parallel to our current Commander in Chief.
FF: If there could be a Tales from the Hood 2 on video, could there be a Fear of a Black Hat 2 for straight to vide or VOD?
RC: I’m definitely trying to do something with Fear of a Black Hat. I’m actually in talks to see if we can get it set up someplace as a streaming series on a small level. There is a story of where Tasty and Tone and Ice are today. It would obviously include hip-hop and current hip-hop, but it would also be in seeing how these guys operate in the world now with children and wives and ex-wives, lots of ex-wives and ex-girlfriends and how they as friends or business associates deal with the day to day of their lives. That’s something I’m actively pursuing.
FF: Would it still be in documentary style?
RC: I think would be a combination of documentary and first camera. There would be a documentary character, a new documentary character would be chasing these guys around. So it would be a combination of that and a single camera thing, sort of Larry Sandersish in a certain way.
FF: Which N.W.H. member do you think would marry a Kardashian?
RC: Ha ha. I think as I’m looking at it now, Tasty is kind of in the quasi-Kardashian world, Kardashian/Coco world.
FF: I would’ve said Tasty also.
RC: Yeah, he’s kind of in that universe.
FF: In addition to seeing N.W. H. now I would hope you could cover the last 20 years of music in flashbacks.
RC: Yeah, I definitely think that there’s an opportunity from time to time to flashback to different points in their career and use it to set up what’s going on today between them. So yeah, there would be various music videos, various other things that we could go back to as well as what’s going on in their lives today.