Body Bags (1993)
Director(s): John Carpenter & Tobe Hooper
Starring: Robert Carradine, David Naughton Stacy Keach, David Warner & Mark Hamill
Released by: Scream Factory
Reviewed by Mike Kenny
After an already illustrious career directing gems like Halloween, The Fog, The Thing and Big Trouble in Little China, Director John Carpenter turned to the small screen for a taste of anthology madness. Following up Carpenter’s disappointing 1992 effort of Memoirs of an Invisible Man, Showtime came a knockin’ with a proposal that enabled Carpenter with wife and Producer, Sandy King, to gather a wide selection of their friends and genre vets to make a fun and horrific anthology flick. The result was Body Bags. In addition to Carpenter directing the first two segments and appearing as the ghoulish-like coroner who hosts the wrap-around segments, Director Tobe Hooper (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Lifeforce) joins the festivities for the final segment of the film. With creative talent like this behind and in front of the camera, is this anthology of horrors worth remembering or best left for dead? Zip yourself in tight and let’s find out…
Body Bags is a nifty anthology of three horror tales that are all hosted by a ghoulish-looking coroner (John Carpenter) who has a taste for the macabre and formaldehyde. The Gas Station, helmed by John Carpenter, centers on a woman (Alex Datcher) working the late shift at a gas station while an insane killer is on the loose. Hair, again directed by Carpenter, stars Stacy Keach (Road Games, American History X) as a man that will do anything to stop the loss of his hair. Finally, Tobe Hooper directs Eye, a story about a baseball player (Mark Hamill of Star Wars fame) that agrees to a transplant after losing his eye in a brutal car accident. Don’t blink or else you’ll miss appearances from icons like Deborah Harry, Sheena Easton, David Naughton, David Warner as well as cameos by Wes Craven, Sam Raimi, Tobe Hooper, Tom Arnold and the infamous Roger Corman.
When the topic of horror anthologies arises, I find it a real shame that Body Bags isn’t discussed nearly as much as it deserves to be. The strategy of releasing horror anthologies has never proven to be widely successful or financially profitable for the studios which makes Body Bags an even more unique case. The heyday of the 1980s slasher craze was all but dead when 1993 rolled around and a cable channel named Showtime chose to take a chance. The benefit to horror fans was that we were treated to a wonderfully entertaining TV movie that brought together so many genre vets on one production. Sure, the incredible Creepshow brought George A. Romero and Stephen King together with a cast that included Adrienne Barbeau, Ed Harris, Ted Danson and Leslie Nielsen. But, I think Body Bags is the only other anthology film that rivals it with a cast and crew that is just as noteworthy and talks the talk when it comes to their segments. John Carpenter’s efforts for The Gas Station and Hair are so polar opposite from one another but also so identifiably Carpenter. The Gas Station rewards viewers with the suspense and terror we’ve come to know from Carpenter while Hair allows him to explore aliens once more with a dark comedic tone attached. Stacy Keach is absolutely looney in his performance and the long hair he yearns for gives us a nostalgic reminder for what year this was made. In addition, Robert Carradine’s mad portrayal of the killer in The Gas Station was not only refreshing but genuinely creepy. Tobe Hooper’s finale in Eye is what will really send shivers down your spine. The nightmarish imagery and descent into madness that Mark Hamill portrays is quite frightening and caught me off guard with a few jump-scares. John Carpenter’s acting chops in the wrap-around segments is what keeps the film fun and light similar to HBO’s Tales from the Crypt. While it is a shame that this TV movie didn’t morph into a fully fledged series as Showtime was hoping, we are still left with a remarkably fun anthology of tales that is painfully underrated as it is one of the best.
Scream Factory presents Body Bags in a 1080p High-Definition Widescreen transfer in 1:78:1. The film looks nice and clean with barely any scratches to be seen. Black levels look great which is a major plus for how many night scenes there are. Grain is nicely intact and colors pop well specifically in Carpenter’s wrap-around segments. Scream Factory does it again!
Body Bags comes with a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track that hits all the right notes. Dialogue is clear as crystal while moments of terror are loud and booming. No hisses or pops were heard on this track. In addition, a 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio track is also provided. What else could be asked for?
Scream Factory treats this Collector’s Edition accordingly with a nice assortment of special features.
- Unzipping Body Bags: A 20 minute featurette with interviews from John Carpenter, Producer Sandy King and Actors Robert Carradine and Stacy Keach.
- Audio Commentary with Director John Carpenter & Actor Robert Carradine on The Gas Station
- Audio Commentary with Director John Carpenter & Actor Stacy Keach on Hair
- Audio Commentary with Producer Sandy King & Justin Beahm on Eye
- Original Trailer
- DVD Copy
Body Bags came at a time when horror was on life support and Showtime was willing to take a risky chance. Thankfully, the finished product is a rewarding piece of anthology horror that brought together so many beloved genre vets on one project. The film is light on its toes and has fun with itself while also packing the scares and terror when necessary. Body Bags is an overlooked chapter in horror anthology history that not only produced some of Carpenter and Hooper’s best efforts of the 1990s but for the entire sub-genre. Scream Factory’s uncut presentation of the film is a real marvel to the eyes and ears as it looks and sounds just terrific. The special features provided are wonderful and offer great candid anecdotes on the making of the film from the players involved although it would have been nifty to hear Hooper’s thoughts on his segment. Scream Factory also provides gorgeous new cover art for the film provided by Justin Osbourne. While, the option of having reversible covers that utilize the original 1-sheet artwork is normally provided on these Collector’s Editions, the rights holders for Body Bags always despised it and insisted on just using the new artwork. Not a huge deal but certainly worth noting for fans of this popular collection. Regardless, Body Bags is a hell of a fun time and thanks to Scream Factory’s superior treatment this release should be in every horror fan’s collection.