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Blu-ray Review: Body Bags
Ryan Midnight   |  

John Carpenter's Body Bags Blu-ray

Body Bags
Blu-ray/DVD Combo l Instant
Directed by John Carpenter and Tobe Hooper
Written by Billy Brown and Dan Angel
Starring Robert Carradine, Stacy Keach, Mark Hamill, Alex Datcher, David Warner, Deborah Harry, Twiggy, John Carpenter
Scream! Factory
Release Date: Nov. 19th 2013

Three tales of terror are waiting for you to discover them in the anthology horror movie, Body Bags. The first two tales, “The Gas Station” and “Hair” are directed by John Carpenter, while the final segment, “Eye,” is directed by Tobe Hooper. The script was brought to the attention of producer Sandy King by a pair of new writers who would go on to write for several “˜tween horror television series including Goosebumps and R.L. Stine’s The Haunting Hour.

In “The Gas Station,” a young woman’s first night on the job as a gas station attendant covering the graveyard shift is continuously interrupted by a barrage of creatures of the night, including a machete-wielding madman.

Next, in “Hair,” a man (Stacy Keach) obsessed with losing his hair turns to a new and experimental procedure to gain a full set of long flowing locks, only to discover that some things are better left as is.

Finally in “Eye,” a baseball player (Mark Hamill) who loses his eye in a car crash accepts an offer to have a brand new eye transplant, but soon begins to see the horrible images from the eye’s previous occupant.

From the mid 1980s through early ’90s, horror anthology series were all the rage. From Tales from the Darkside to Monsters and of course the king of them all, Tales from the Crypt, there was a neverending stream of shocks and suspense. In 1993, cable channel Showtime looked to get in on the action and the result was Body Bags, which was set up as a pilot to test the waters for an ongoing show. The series even has its own wisecracking host The Coroner (played by John Carpenter) who comes off as somewhere between the Cryptkeeper and Beetlejuice.

The whole package is a lot of fun, even if the segments are a bit uneven, depending on your tastes and needs. “The Gas Station” comes off as an early ’80s slasher flick distilled down to its absolute essence and you can definitely see Carpenter’s Halloween footprint all over this one. “Hair” is certainly the lightest of the episodes, and plays as much for the laughs as it does scares, with a smattering of commentary about man’s image and confidence (or lack thereof) deriving from how much hair they have.

But the real treat here, which makes this entire endeavor worth the time, is “Eye.” Mark Hamill gives his all with a truly terrifying performance as he succumbs to the visions of his new eye. It is really quite unsettling seeing Hamill, who most will only have seen in live action as Luke Skywalker, emit such menace. Tobe Hooper also provides the strongest direction of the three as well and goes for broke as far as the material provides.

The movie offers up a slew of minor roles and cameos from the world of horror. Watch for quick walk-ons from Wes Craven, Sam Raimi, Roger Corman, and Greg Nicotero just to name a few. You can tell that everyone was having just a heck of a time performing and creating this anthology. This is definitely a horror community driven effort.

Unfortunately, due to the budget restrictions and location issues, an ongoing Body Bags series never materialized. But now, thanks to Scream! Factory, the movie lives on with its debut on Blu-ray. Originally released as a barebones DVD from Artisan, this time out the film is given much better treatment.

The movie is presented in anamorphic widescreen, with an absolutely fantastic transfer especially if you’ve only seen this on VHS or cable broadcast, and comes with both 5.1 surround sound and stereo sound. The movie includes a brand new audio commentary featuring John Carpenter, producer Sandy King, Robert Carradine, and Stacy Keach. A brand new featurette brings Carpenter, King, Carradine, and Keach together again as they discuss the genesis and filming of Body Bags. Lastly, the trailer is also included. The package also includes a DVD featuring the movie and all the extras.

For some, this will be a trip down memory lane, especially those that used to rent this on a Saturday night or caught a late night running of it on Showtime. For others, this is a look at a what-could-have-been television series and an opportunity to see a whole slew of horror icons have an absolute blast on screen. Enjoy, and remember to serve your formaldehyde in a martini glass.


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