Body Bags Collector's Edition Blu-ray Review
Directed by John Carpenter and Tobe Hooper
Written by Billy Brown and Dan Angel
1993, Region A, 91 minutes, Not Rated
Blu-ray released on November 12th, 2013
John Carpenter as the Coroner
Robert Carradine as Bill
Stacy Keach as Richard Coberts
Mark Hamill as Brent Matthews
Alex Datcher as Anne
David Warner as Dr. Lock
Sheena Easton as Megan
Twiggy as Cathy
Deborah Harry as the Nurse
In the early 1990s, Tales from the Crypt was a runaway hit series for HBO and Showtime was looking for decent counter-programming. Legendary director John Carpenter (The Fog, They Live) was approached with the idea of creating an anthology film for television that could possibly be expanded into a weekly series. Carpenter agreed and directed the first two installments, with Tobe Hooper stepping in to helm the third. Carpenter also agreed to appear on camera as the host of the show, an undead coroner that fans of the competing HBO program would find quite familiar. Despite a fairly positive reception from genre fans, the program did not extend beyond this original trilogy of terror.
The Gas Station is the tale of a female student trapped in an isolated location on the night a psychopath is lurking in the darkness, closer than she thinks. Variations on this story have been told for decades and this version deliberately includes many familiar elements of the slasher subgenre. What makes this work is the skill with which Carpenter breezes through the material, loading the piece throughout with fun cameos for horror hounds. There are several nods to the formula he helped create and fans of Halloween will recognize a couple of standout moments. The most clever and playful wink comes upon repeat viewing when the killer is seen driving away in a very familiar car.
Hair is a surprisingly comedic piece from Carpenter in which Stacy Keach (Road Games, The Long Riders) is a man obsessed with his thinning hair. Convinced this is the source of all his relationship problems, he will try anything to boost his self esteem, including sampling an arsenal of quick-fix remedies that are increasingly humiliating. Salvation comes from the mysterious Dr. Lock (David Warner, The Island) and his unique treatment for baldness. What follows is the traditional “be careful what you wish for” lesson, but the story is told with an unexpected light-heartedness that offers the usually stoic Keach a chance to shine in a new light. While things feel a bit rushed, the plot has a satisfying conclusion and doesn't overstay its welcome.
Eye is the final episode, and stars Mark Hamill (The Empire Strikes Back) and was directed by Tobe Hooper (The Funhouse, Lifeforce). The old yarn of a transplant recipient being haunted by his new parts is told with particular nastiness, and this is worth mentioning as it is much darker than the earlier installments. Hamill is a baseball player who loses an eye in a traffic accident and the replacement organ gives him nightmares and hallucinations. What follows is a strong performance from Hamill as he struggles to escape madness that builds to a devastating finale.
Body Bags is not a total success, but it is certainly entertaining and would have made an interesting series. The three shorts we get are loaded with fun cameos and writers Billy Brown and Dan Angel keep things moving at a brisk pace. Carpenter and Hooper are clearly having a blast and the male leads of all three stories are cast against type and given an opportunity to stretch their acting skills. Scream Factory presents the film in its original uncut format for the first time, as various truncated editions have made the circuit for the past two decades. This is easily recommended viewing for anyone who has a soft spot for goofy horror short subjects. Anyone in need of an easy drinking game should take a shot whenever a genre vet makes a cameo appearance.
Video and Audio:
Scream Factory delivers once again with Body Bags. The film is presented in its original 1.78:1 aspect ratio as it appeared when released theatrically overseas and it looks quite nice. This marks the domestic debut of the widescreen format as the program was given a full frame (1.33:1) transfer when it aired on television and subsequent home video releases. Black levels are rich, especially in The Gas Station, and colors are deeply saturated without bleeding.
The default DTS-HD MA 5.1 track offers occasional directional sound effects and nice use of the music cues. Dialogue is occasionally spotty but generally remains clear and free of distortion. Also included is a stereo mix in DTS-HD MA 2.0 that is also satisfying. English subtitles are provided.
The best supplement on this disc is an audio commentary dominated by John Carpenter, who reflects on the material and on working as an actor for the wraparound segments. He is joined by Robert Carradine and Stacy Keach for their individual segments and the trio genuinely sounds like they are having fun reminiscing. Producer Sandy King steps in for the unavailable Tobe Hooper to discuss the third story. The track is well-paced and filled with fun anecdotal information worth checking out.
Unzipping Body Bags (20 minutes) offers an overview of the production and features new interviews with Carpenter and King as well as actors Carradine and Keach. Everyone shares fond memories of working with each other. Keach is surprisingly candid in discussing his hair loss and King shares her thoughts on televised horror of the early 1990s.
An original but uninspired trailer rounds out the special features on this disc.
A DVD copy is also included in this release.