Monday, November 11, 2013

Blu-ray Review: BODY BAGS (1993)

BODY BAGS (1993)  

Collector's Edition Blu-ray+DVD

Label: Shout! Factory / Scream factory 

Region Code: A
MPAA Rating: Unrated 
Duration: 95 Minutes 
Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, 2.0Dolby Digital 5.1, 2.0 
Video: 1080p Widescreen (1.78:1)
Directors: John Carpenter, Tobe Hooper
Cast: Stacey Keach, Mark Hamill, Wes Craven, Sam Raimi, Deborah Harry, John Agar, David Naughton, Sheena Easton, Roger Corman, Tobe Hooper

Directors John Carpenter and Tobe Hooper direct the TV 
horror anthology Body Bags (1993) which started out as sort of Showtime's answer to HBO's anthology Tales from the Crypt with director John Carpenter acting as the macabre host, a creepy character known as the Coroner who intros/outros each segment a very cornball sense of the macabre 

First up we have "The Gas Station", a nice young woman named Anne (Alex Datcher) arrives to work at a 24-7 gas station in a rural area just outside Haddonfield, Illinois, horror fans will no doubt recognize this as the home of Michael Myers from John Carpenter's Halloween (1978). The departing gas station attendant (Robert Carradine, Revenge of the Nerds) warns her to be aware that a murderous escaped mental patient is on the lose in the area, poor Anne is already a bundle of nerves and only  gets more paranoid as the night wears on.  Throughout the night she encounters various late-night patrons ranging from a weirdo vagrant, a total creeper and celebratory boozers, but locked away inside the booth she feels relatively safe, until she accidentally locks herself outta the booth. This segments has a bunch of fun cameos including Buck Flowers (They Live) who seems to never have passed up the chance to play a bum ever, directors Wes Craven (Last House on the Left) and Sam Raimi (Evil Dead) plus David Naughton (An American Werewolf in London) and Peter Jason (The Driver), it's stacked pretty heavy and Wes Craven is scary good as a creeper, what a weirdo! Once the killer is revealed the tension which has been somewhat steadily mounting explodes onscreen as he tries to ax his way inside the booth through the bay window, it's a very striking scene. The performances from Datcher and the antagonist are quite excellent, one a frantic victim the other a cold-blooded murder, fun stuff. 

Then we're onto "Hair" starring Stacey Keach (The Ninth Configuration) as aging businessman Richard Colberts who is super self conscious about his thinning hair, he's totally consumed with finding a cure for it. It's a very light-hearted and goofy entry. He tries all those late night TV hair-loss miracle cures, even the ridiculous spray on hair stuff. When a new TV ad promises a miracle cure for his thinning hair he ends up at the office of Dr. Lock (David Warner, Tron) who offers an experimental treatment which much to his excitement produces a flowing head of hair overnight, a ridiculously amount in fact. Like pretty much everything in life, something that seems to good to be true usually is an there are weird side effects to the treatment, hair is now growing where it should not and his skin begins to blister and boil. When he returns to Dr. Locks office the extraterrestrial truth about his treatment is reveled. Stacey Keach's insecure and neurotic performance is pitch-perfect for the segment but it's a pretty damn goofy segment.

The third and final segment "Eye" is directed by Tobe Hooper (Lifeforce) and feature Luke Sywalker himself Mark Hamill as Brent Mathews, a Major League Baseball player who loses an eye in a car accident which sends jagged glass shards right into his eye socket  His career threatened he submits to  revolutionary new eye transplant which comes with a hitch, he begins to have vicious nightmares and visions of raping and murdering young women, even his own wife. When he confronts the doc (John Agar, Tarantula) who performed the surgery it is revealed that the donor of the miracle eye came from a recently executed necrophiliac murder of women, ouch. As the urges to rape and murder intensify can he resist the urge to kill his loving wife? It's a nail-biter of a segment and it's pretty gruesome, the Skywalker rough sex-scene is pretty disturbing stuff, might not wanna watch that one with the kids or they'll never look at Star Wars the same way again! A very effective entry and pretty gruesome, I would say it's the last best thing Hooper's directed outside of the remake of Toolbox Murders (2004) in the past. Watch for the Roger Corman cameo! 

Now the wrap around pieces with Carpenter as The Coroner are a guilty pleasure, they are ghastly awful and a total rip on the Crypt Keeper but that's sort of what I love about it. Maybe not the most quality anthology ever put to film but it's plenty macabre, a bit goofy and there's a lot of fun cameos, a very entertaining watch

Blu-ray: Body Bags (1993) for the first time ever is presented in the widescreen (1.78.1) aspect ratio from Shout! Factory horror imprint Scream Factory with an AVC encode on 1080p Blu-ray. It looks surprisingly good for an early 90's cable TV movie with a fine layer of film grain, strong saturated colors and the darker scenes nice and deep. We have the option of an English language DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and 2.0 with optional English subtitles, occasionally some effects and the John Carpenter score do bleed into the surround but it's just decent, not outstanding. 

Extras include a the Unzipping Body Bags (20:07) featurette featuring John Carpenter and his wife Producer Sandy King alongside actors Robert Carradine and Stacy Keach. we get some information about the project coming together, the fact that Clive Barker turned down an offer to appear in a segment and the truth behind the production. For years I have read that Showtime anted an anthology series similar to HBO's Tales from the Crypt and that they got cold feet at the last minute and pulled the plug, but to hear John Carpenter tell it the project was always intended as a stand alone cable film, and while there was a proposal for a TV series it was he who turned it down noting it was underfunded, it's a very cool featurette. 

There are also audio commentaries recorded for each segment including the wrap-around. Director John Carpenter is joined by actor Robert Carradine for "Gas Station" and Stacy Keach on "Hair", both are more interviews being performed by the director than a scene specific anecdotal track, but we do get some of that as well. Carpenter inquires about Carradine's early career working with John Wayne on The Cowboys (1972) and Walter Hill's The Long Riders (1980). He probes Keach to talk about his favorite Shakespearean roles and the two, who are also musicians, talk about music. Unfortunately we do not get a Tobe Hooper commentary on "Eye" but Producer Sandy King steps in to talk about the segment and is joined by special features producer Justin Beahm. all in all some decent commentaries but not on par with the director's essential commentaries for Escape from New York (1981) or The Thing (1982), it's pretty breezy but a decent listen. 

Finishing up the extras on Scream Factory's 2-disc Collector's Edition is a trailer for the film. This release also comes with a standard-def DVD of the feature film mirroring the same features as the Blu-ray plus slipcover featuring the artwork of Justin Osbourne who also created  the new artwork for Scream Factory's  editions of John Carpenter's The Fog (1980) and Prince of Darkness (1987). This is the first time I recall one of the Collector's Edition's not having the option of  reversible artwork. If my memory serves me correctly I believe this has something to do with the rights holder of the film so detesting the original artwork that it was stipulated that it not be included on the new edition, not sure about that one though so make of it what you will. 

Special Features: 
- Unzipping Body Bags (20:07)
- Segment Specific Audio Commentaries from John Carpenter, producer Sandy King, actors Stacey Keach and Robert Carradine
- Trailer (1:20)

Verdict: I have a real warm and fuzzy soft spot for horror anthologies having grown-up on a steady diet of Amicus omnibus chillers, and while Body Bags (1993) may not be on par with Creepshow (1982) or Trick 'r Treat (2007) it's definitely a ton of macabre fun, recommended.  
3 Outta 5