I have to admit I'm a sucker for horror anthology films. From 'Creepshow' to 'V/H/S' to 'Chillerama', and 'Trick R' Treat', I love seeing little segments from varying directors in the horror genre. It's basically like watching 'The Twilight Zone', which is one of my favorite television shows, but you know, with tons of blood and guts and monsters. And with John Carpenter's 'Body Bags', there is no shortage of blood, thrills, and laughs. Packed with tons of cameos, and some great stories, 'Body Bags' is a great addition to any collection of horror movies.
Back in 1993, Showtime wanted to develop a television series similar to HBO's 'Tales From The Crypt'. They got John Carpenter on board, and they soon began filming this would be series for the pay cable channel. However, shortly after filming started, the network decided to scrap the series, but since stuff was already filmed, and there were some big names on board, they decided to make this a feature film in the form of a horror anthology, and use the three segments that they filmed. The first two segments are directed by John Carpenter ('Halloween', 'The Fog'), where the final segment was directed by Tobe Hooper (the original 'Texas Chainsaw Massacre'). And much like the Crypt Keeper on 'Tales From The Crypt', Carpenter himself narrates and introduces each segment in a darkly funny way.
The first segment is called 'The Gas Station' and follows a young woman named Anne (Alex Datcher), who is a college student whose first night working a gas station takes pace during this segment. Of course, as she is a student, she has to work at night, and thus her graveyard shift begins. Her co-worker Bill (Robert Carradine) shows her the ropes and they overhear on the radio that an escaped serial killer is on the loose killing people. Bill reminds her to keep the cashier's booth locked up. So a tense Anne is always on edge as customer after customer comes up, wanting to pay for gas or use the bathroom including a young Wes Craven and David Naughton ('An American Werewolf in London'). Even director Sam Raimi ('The Evil Dead') pops up. but of course, Alex leaves the cashier's booth unattended and is locked out, and is soon stalked and tormented by the serial killer. There is a big reveal who the killer is in the end of the segment, but it isn't something that should surprise you. There are some good blood splatters to round this little segment out, but overall it's quite predictable. But oh what fun it is.
The second segment is called 'Hair', and no, it's not a horror themed musical. It's rather a dark and twisted comedy that follows Richard Coberts (Stacy Keach), who is an older balding man struggling with his age. More importantly, he does not want to lose his hair. His girlfriend Megan (Sheena Easton) is giving Richard a lot of grief from 9 to 5 on his obsession with wigs and getting implants. Needless to say, Megan is ready to take the morning train out if he doesn't stop with this nonsense. After seeing a bunch of infomercials for a new hair treatment from a guy named Lock (David Warner), Richard makes an appointment and has a surgical procedure done to have a full head of long flowing hair. Well, Richard gets his wish, but at a big price. After having his new flowing hair that would make Fabio jealous, Richard begins to feel sick and starts to grow hair everywhere. Even places where people don't usually grow hair. When he tries to cut it, the hairs bleed and move around and try to bite things. After he inspects the hair, he realizes the hair is actually alive, and doesn't seem to stop growing. The big reveal here is completely out of left field and will make you laugh and scream out loud, but this is a great mix of comedy and horror.
The final segment is called 'Eye', and is the one directed by Tobe Hooper. Luke Skywalker is in this one, folks. I mean Mark Hamill, and he plays Brent Matthews, a major league baseball player who is married to Cathy (Twiggy). This segment really gets going on a dark and stormy night as Brent is driving down a rural road. As he reaches for a cassette tape to listen to, he takes his eyes of the road and has a big accident involving a deer. A piece of glass from the windshield impales Matthews' eye and he loses it, but he doesn't lose his life. Brent and Cathy hear about a new surgery that will give Brent a new eye from a donor. After getting the eye transplant, all seems well, but not for long, as Brent starts to see glimpses of murders and rape. After a little research, he finds out that his new eye is from a recently executed serial killer. If that weren't bad enough, it seems that the spirit of this serial killer is actually in the eye and is beginning to take over Brent. This is actually the darkest of the three shorts and in my opinion the bloodiest. Look out for Roger Corman here.
And it wouldn't be complete if there wasn't a big reveal of who our host and narrator really is. I wish this had been a series, as these stories were actually quite good. They were fun, gory, and at times, quite comical. 'Body Bags' is a great horror anthology that still holds up twenty years later.
'Body Bags' comes with a great 1080p HD transfer presented in 1.78:1 aspect ratio, although the television version aired in 1.33:1 aspect ratio. In the commentary track, they mention going back and forth from the aspect ratios, but there are no real problems that come of this and it never hinders the viewing experience. The detail is actually quite good and very sharp at times. Closeups reveal some fine texture that show some good gashes and wounds, and some detailed makeup effects.
The colors are well saturated and seem to pop off the screen too. There is also a natural and filmic look to the picture as well, giving this horror anthology a great nostalgic feel to it. Black levels run deep and inky and the flesh tones are natural and smooth. This is a solid video presentation given the history of the movie.
This release comes with both a DTS-HD 5.1 audio mix and a DTS-HD 2.0 track. I recommend the 5.1 track, as it has a bigger range in the form of more bass. The dialogue is always crisp and clear, and of course always easy to understand. The sound effects and ambient noises come through the surrounds from time to time and definitely sound more fluid on the 5.1 mix. And on the 5.1 track, there are more scares with the music crescendos. The fidelity is great and the dynamic range is wide here. This isn't the best audio presentation I've seen for a horror film, but it gets the job done. Plus the score by John Carpenter is always great to listen to.
While 'Body Bags' isn't the freshest or most original horror film, it's still highly entertaining, and definitely holds up today. There are some great cameos throughout, with some great gore scenes. The video and audio presentations are quite good, with a couple of great extras. This horror anthology should be in every genre fan's collection. Definitely recommended.