There are times when my increasingly frequent bouts of insomnia can be a blessing, times in which I write in place of lost sleep or read more of whatever book I'm currently involved in. Then there are those times when I get a major too-tired headache and can't concentrate enough to read or write, so I turn on the TV in hope of finding something boring enough to lull me back into the tender arms of slumber. Sometimes the glass teat yields exactly the video sedative I crave (scratched-up prints of nondescript black & white just-out-of-the-silent-era movies running on CUNY) or I may luck into something worth watching, thus defeating my plan but being utterly worth it (a documentary on electric guitar pioneer Les Paul standing out in my memory in that category), but every now and then I encounter some cinematic equivalent to a "floater" turd that I just cannot look away from or turn off, and last night I bore witness to the creative train wreck that is SNOOP DOGG'S HOOD OF HORROR.
Anyone who reads this blog has most likely figured out that I’m not a rap or hip-hop fan per se (although I do enjoy a limited amount of it), but there is something strangely appealing to the cartoonishly goofy charms of Snoop Dogg, a man who gained his nickname due to his resemblance to Charlie Brown’s dog (who is arguably Charlie Brown’s intellectual superior). I enjoy him whenever he’s in a movie or on a talk show, his baked-like-a-motherfucker stoned state evident even to those who’ve never even heard of marijuana, and I may be the only person on the planet who finds SOUL PLANE funny for its utterly shameless and over-the-top stereotyping of black folks, something I usually loathe in properties like MARTIN, THE PARKERS (though I do confess to having a soft spot for plus-size cutie Mo’Nique; those eyes…that smile…) and the unmitigated toxic shock/modern day minstrelsy of both UNDER ONE ROOF and TYLER PERRY’S HOUSE OF PAYNE. I have neither an explanation nor an excuse; it’s just the way it is, so when I read that a horror movie featuring Snoop was about to come on I figured it wouldn’t kill me to give the movie a shot. After all, his turn as the title character in the 2003 horror flick BONES (with the mighty Pam Grier) was pretty good, but alas the same cannot be said of anything on display in HOOD OF HORROR, a feeble TALES FROM THE CRYPT-style anthology knockoff that differs from the EC Comics-derived original only by virtue of a drastic difference in overall quality and a higher concentration of melanin.
The film features three stories framed by bits featuring Snoop in the Crypt-Keeper role, so lets examine them one by one:
This wholly unnecessary anime-influenced opening cartoon segment explains how gang-banger Devon (Snoop) accidentally shot and killed his little sister in a drive-by shootout, only to have the Devil (or some other random demonic presence) show up and offer to bring the child back to life provided that he sell his soul in exchange and work for the Devil as a harvester of evil souls on this mortal plane. Once enlisted in the satanic work force, Devon becomes the live-action “H.O.H.” (“Hound of Hell”) and is “blessed” with a garish orange pimp suit, ridiculous blond pigtails and — of course — a pair of demonic ‘hos that he apparently pimps for between story segments.
This segment offers absolutely nothing other than some would-be “cool” pseudo-Japanese animation and an origin that serves no purpose since we really don’t need to have an explanation as to why some demonic guy is telling us stories about assorted assholes who get some sort of totally predictable supernatural comeuppance for all the rotten shit they did before being relegated to the Lake of Fire (borne there by an animated elevator, no less). Did Rod Serling need any kind of back story to explain why he was spinning his tales of weirdness? Did the Crypt-Keeper? The answer is a resounding “no,” and I swear I wanted to yell “Who fucking cares?!!?” at the screen as this mess dragged on. And this segment also introduces us to “Half Pint” (Gabriel Pimentel), H.O.H.’s dwarf sidekick who pukes up blood and other stuff whenever he’s on camera, a bit that adds neither horror nor humor to the proceedings.
An inner-city graffiti artist named Posie (Daniella Alonso) runs afoul of a trio of thuggish douchebags who take umbrage at her girly tag style and scrawl their own names over hers, and after kicking their leader in the nuts, spurring the gang to pursue her, she is abducted by a sinister and sorcerous derelict (my man Danny Trejo, turning in one of the film’s genuinely good performances). The creepy bastard straps Posie to a chair and applies a skeletal tattoo onto her right hand and forearm, giving her the power to erase her enemies from existence by spray-painting an “X” over their names. The trio of thugs meets horribly predictable demises — although the death involving a forty-ouncer of malt liquor and a guy’s head does get points for its amusing/stupid value —
and once they’re dead Posie becomes as much of an artless vandal as they were, prompting the irate derelict to mystically strip her of her magic tattoo, thus leading to the zombified corpses of the thugs revenging themselves by apparently squashing her against a wall and using her blood to fashion a red mural of pretty flowers. Yaaaaaaawn…
An outrageous redneck stereotype (Anson Mount) who’s the Caucasian answer to Stepin Fetchit — decked out in Texan businessman suit, cowboy boots, stars 'n' bars boxers, and a huge set of steer horns mounted to the hood of his car — mows down his salt-of-the-earth dad and stands to inherit a good chunk of change and a building that houses a quartet of black Viet Nam vets (led by Ernie Hudson) once commanded by the much-beloved and respected dead dad, but in order to get his legacy the asshole must live with the vets for a year, during which time the asshole’s dad hoped the vets would teach his ne’er-do-well son honor and decency. Well that wasn’t going to happen because not only is the guy a royal douchebag, he’s also the most gratuitously offensive onscreen white trash since William Sanderson’s indelible Jesse Lee Cain in FIGHT FOR YOUR LIFE, only much more cartoonish, and once he and his Chihuahua-toting bimbo girlfriend take up residence, the pair embark on a campaign to make the vets’ live a living hell, resulting in the starvation of one and the near-rape and successful murder of their foxy caretaker (Sydney Tamiia Poitier, aka Jungle Julia from Quentin Tarantino’s DEATH PROOF). Having finally endured more abuse than is remotely believable, even by the standards of this kind of morality tale, the vets don their uniforms and mete out EC-style revenge, including a mechanically-assisted force-feeding of caviar that causes the bimbo’s stomach to explode, showering all present, including the Chihuahua, with the fish egg delicacy.
Though it is kind of funny to see the dog happily chowing down on the expensive bounty in the blonde’s now-burst belly, believe me when I say it sounds much more interesting than it actually is.
An ambitious and assholish rapper (Pooch Hall of the CW’s THE GAME) reaps the benefits of a career built on being a douche to everyone around him, especially his deejay (MAD TV’s superb Aries Spears, whose immense talents are completely squandered here), until what I think is supposed to be an angel shows up and makes him watch a video display of all his transgressions, including setting up a convenience store robbery engineered to kill his partner and gain him more lucrative chart popularity. The deejay’s corpse shows up, drives the rapper mad and spurs him on to a guns-a-blazin’ rampage backstage at an awards ceremony, resulting in a demise so full of lead that he could use his dick for a pencil. Though it tries to be kinda deep in its depiction of avaricious betrayal and the poisonous allure of stardom, this is by far the most rote of the stories, but at least it’s mercifully short.
This pitiful hodgepodge is capped with an uninspired rap in which Snoop’s narrator recounts all of the just-seen stories, with clips, as the newly damned-and-gore-drenched souls stand around or listlessly gyrate on a set that’s apparently meant to be the netherworld’s ghetto, and as I watched it I wondered how this would have fared at the late, lamented Norwalk Theater, the local grindhouse that ran such trash during my high school years. Considering the tastes of my fellow Norwalk Theater attendees, I doubt SNOOP DOGG’S HOOD OF HORROR would have played for more than a week, doubtlessly being killed by negative word of mouth that would turn away even fans of Snoop’s recording career.
Positively eye-rolling in its predictability and derivativeness, SNOOP DOGG’S HOOD OF HORROR is best avoided by all but the most fervent of completists since it offers nothing whatsoever that can’t be found elsewhere, realized a hundred times more effectively. I recently saw TROLL 2 and while it was a floater of the first degree, at least TROLL 2 was vastly entertaining in its wretchedness. No such luck here; hell, I've taken scarier dumps than this flick. Maybe the filmmakers were relying on their audience being zonked out on copiously-toked blunts and an ocean of malt liquor forties...
NOTE: if anyone out there thinks I'm stereotyping my own with that last comment, you've never seen a movie at Norwalk Theater during its heyday or a flick of this ilk in a Times Square venue. Or even today's Brooklyn's Court Street 12 multiplex, where my pal Hughes and I saw SOUL PLANE on opening day — him being the lone white person in attendance — and heard the frequent sound of forties shattering as they were dropped upon the theater floor, there joining multiple discarded boxes of KFC and Popeye's chicken, half-eaten or picked-clean bones spilling out of their containers.