20 years ago, John Carpenter and Tobe Hooper collaborated on an anthology film called Body Bags. It was meant to be a television series – Showtime’s answer to HBO’s “Tales from the Crypt”, but it never went into stage two. It’s an uneven film, one that boasts an impressive lineup of horror-related cameos like Sam Raimi, Roger Corman, and Tom Arnold (horrific indeed). Carpenter lively hams it up as the Crypt Keeper-like “Coroner” in the wraparound segments. Doing his best Betelgeuse impression, Carpenter drinks formaldehyde and complains about the number of people dying natural deaths. “Give me a nice stab wound to poke around in and I’m happy,” he says. As far as the three films go, there’s only one that didn’t do anything for me, while the other two are fantastic.
“The Gas Station” is a perfect little Carpenter short film. His favored theme of confinement is utilized at an isolated gas station at night. Beyond the lit up parking lot and pumps, there’s nothing but darkness. It’s the perfect setting for Robert Carradine to wreak havoc on an unsuspecting station attendant. Man, who woulda thunk Carradine (best known as Lewis Skolnick from Revenge of the Nerds) could be so psychotic. His performance is effectively terrifying – he even gets to do the Michael Myers “I’m not dead” sit-up! That shot of him smashing the safety glass with a huge sledgehammer is epic. Wes Craven makes a surprisingly great appearance as a flirty drunk. Also, “The Gas Station” takes place in Haddonfield, making it part of the Halloween universe. Next time you have a Halloween marathon, pop this in after part 5 (for chronological consistency).
“Hair,” also directed by Carpenter, is a goofy story about Stacy Keach desperately trying not to be bald. This one kinda falls flat for me. The alien aspect is pretty cool, but there’s something about the flimsy satirical tone of it that turns me off. Carpenter is capable of satire (They Live), but “Hair” is a miss in my book.
Tobe Hooper’s segment “Eye” is downright disturbing. Mark Hamill (General Hospital) plays a minor league ball player who undergoes a radical eye-transplant following a car accident. Soon after he starts suffering from cranky mood swings and horrific visions of a dead woman. There’s one shot in particular of the woman in a shallow grave that is scary as hell. Hamill really goes for it – sweaty, screaming, and psychotic.
This is the first time Body Bags is presented in uncut form (and it’s first time on Blu-ray), so you can see more of Hamill’s bare ass.
The 1080p HD transfer looks fantastic. During Carpenter’s wraparound segments, the detail in Rick Baker’s makeup really pops. Nighttime scenes maintain their detail and contrast is sharp. Scream Factory always does a top-notch job and Body Bags is no different.
The 5.1 audio is pretty lackluster, but the score by Carpenter and Jim Lang sounds fantastic.
The 20-minute “Unzipping Body Bags” feature is great, featuring interviews with Carpenter, co-producer Sandy King (Mrs. Carpenter), Carradine, and Keach. They reveal that it never became a series because Showtime wanted to cut the budget and move them to Canada. Also, Carpenter forgets Sam Raimi’s name.
There’s also commentary on all three segments, with Carradine and Carpenter providing a particularly entertaining track on “The Gas Station.”
Also, a trailer.
Carpenter completists should be hyped to have Body Bags in their collection. Highly recommended for “The Gas Station” and “Eye,” and Carpenter’s Coroner puns.
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