John Carpenter hosts and directed two of the three segments in Body Bags, a horror anthology film made for Showtime in 1993. As feature-length anthologies go, this one is above average, with solid performances by its cast and reliable directing by Carpenter and Tobe Hooper.
Studio: Shout! Factory
Distributed By: Scream Factory
Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC, 480P/MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
Audio: English 2.0 DD, English 5.1 DD, English 2.0 DTS-HDMA, English 5.1 DTS-HDMA
Subtitles: English SDH
Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 1 Hr. 33 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-ray, DVD2-disc Blu-ray Keepcase with outer sleeve
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer), DVD-9 (dual layer)
Region: A, 1
Release Date: 11/12/2013
With the success of HBO’s Tales From The Crypt, writers Dan Angel & Billy Brown (R.L. Stine’s The Haunting Hour) took their script for a horror anthology pilot to director John Carpenter and producer Sandy King, who then pitched it as a TV-movie to Showtime. Carpenter (with help from Rick Baker) plays the coroner, who introduces each of the three stories, much like the Cryptkeeper from Tales, and he obviously is having way too much fun under all the make-up.
The Production Rating: 3.5/5
The first story, The Gas Station, is a serviceable (no pun intended) slasher story, directed by Carpenter, and starring Alex Datcher (Passenger 57) as a young college student working the late shift at a remote gas station. The attendant she is relieving, Bill (Robert Carradine), warns her not to leave the booth, as there is a serial killer on the loose. The episode is filled with cameos by horror film icons, such as David Naughton (An American Werewolf In London), Wes Craven (Nightmare On Elm Street), Peter Jason (Prince of Darkness), and Sam Raimi (Evil Dead).
Hair is a goofy, darkly comic tale involving Richard (Stacy Keach), a man so obsessed with his male pattern baldness that he is willing to try anything to have a full head of hair, including a visit to a hair transplant clinic run by Dr. Lock (David Warner). Anyone who remembers the late night TV ads for Hair Club For Men in the early 1990s will certainly get a good laugh out of this one. This is probably one of Stacy Keach’s best (and underrated) performances, playing it completely for laughs, and having as grand time of it. Sheena Easton plays Richard's girlfriend, Megan, and Deborah Harry shows up as Lock’s nurse, along with blink or you’ll miss them cameos by Greg Nicotero and Kim Alexis. The episode also features some fun stop-motion animation by an uncredited Jim Danforth.
Things take a grim and dark turn as Tobe Hooper helms the final segment, Eye. Minor league baseball star Brent Matthews (Mark Hamill) loses his right eye in a car accident, and agrees to an experimental eyeball transplant proposed by his doctors (Roger Corman and John Agar). What they don’t tell him is that the eye came from a recently executed serial killer, which begins to cause some serious problems at home with his nesting wife, Cathy (Twiggy).
This Scream! Factory release features the unrated cut of Body Bags, previously available on DVD in an R-rated edition from Artisan.
As stated above, Body Bags was originally created as a TV-movie for Showtime, and aired in standard definition in the 1.33:1 aspect ratio. This new 1080p transfer provided to Shout! Factory, compressed using the AVC codec, is in the 1.78:1 aspect ratio. Many may wonder what is going on here, but as explained somewhat in the commentary, Body Bags was composed with both 1.33:1 and 1.85:1 aspect ratios in mind, should the film ever receive a theatrical release (which was very common for TV-movies back in the day). Nothing seems to be missing in the composition of shots, so I do not really see this as anything overly controversial. Detail is quite good, particularly in close-ups, highlighting some of the gruesome make-up effects. Colors are consistent, and are not overly saturated. Black levels are also very good, with excellent contrast.
Video Rating: 3.5/5 3D Rating: NA
As with most Scream! Factory titles, the film includes the original 2.0 stereo and a 5.1 remix, both in DTS-HD Master Audio. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 is mostly front-centric, with slightly better channel separation and a deeper low-end. Surrounds are pretty much non-existent, except for ambient music and effects. Dialogue is clear and understandable on both tracks, but does suffer from some minor sibilance issues, likely inherent in the source material.
Audio Rating: 3/5
Audio Commentary by John Carpenter, Robert Carradine, Stacy Keach, Sandy King, and Justin Beahm: Carpenter discusses shooting the wraparound segments, and is joined by Carradine on Gas Station and Keach on Hair. Producer Sandy King chimes in on Eye, with host Justin Beahm (author of Halloween: The Complete Authorized History).
Special Features Rating: 3/5
Unzipping Body Bags (HD; 20:08): Carpenter, King, Keach, and Carradine discuss making the film in this new documentary short.
Trailer (HD; 1:20)
Body Bags is a fun, fairly even, anthology film that is enjoyable and still holds up very well considering its age. The wraparounds can sometimes feel like a low-rent version of Tales From The Crypt, but Carpenter injects enough dark humor and they are short enough that they don’t bog down the three short stories. The two-disc Blu-ray/DVD combo is worthy of the title Collector’s Edition with the inclusion of a new, and interesting, documentary.
Overall Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewed By: Todd Erwin
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