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January 4, 2014

Movie Review: Body Bags (Blu-ray)

Scream Factory has been going above and beyond with some really fine treatment of John Carpenter’s classic films on Blu-ray. Just this year we’ve seen excellent releases of The Prince of Darkness, Assault on Precinct 13 and what could possibly be their best Blu-ray release this year in The Fog. During the early 90’s Carpenter put together an anthology along with genre great Tobe Hooper for Showtime called Body Bags. Here, Carpenter directed two of the films -- Hair and The Gas Station, and Hooper directed The Eye. Much like Creepshow, Carpenter also does a frequently humorous and gory wraparound piece where he plays a mortician who uses the bloody corpses to tell the stories unfolding.

The Gas Station is the first in the anthology and this is a straight-up slasher with some sprinklings of humor. It follows a young, attractive women and her new job as an overnight gas station attendant. She’s alone the whole night after reliving the evening shift attendant (Robert Carradine, Revenge of the Nerds). Creepy red-herrings are strewn about here in the form of a bum played by Carpenter regular, Buck Flower (They Live) and a drunk played by horror great Wes Craven.

The bodies gradually start to pile as someone is wandering about the darkness surrounding the gas station and hacking up folks. The premise of The Gas Station is routine but it starts a fun pace for the film and has an enjoyable performance by Robert Carradine.

Next up is possibly by favorite of the three films, Hair, starring Stacey Keach. It’s not scary, it’s actually kind of funny, even though it hits home with this balding reviewer. Richard (Keach) has done nearly everything to regain his hair by using embarrassing toupees and even more ridiculous spray to mask his bald spot. Whilst watching the telly, Richard discovers a hair treatment being advertised by a Dr. Lock (David Warner, The Omen) that could be the answer to his follicly challenged melon. After consulting with Lock he goes along with the procedure and not long after he gains a beautiful mane. Looks are deceiving because his mane is actually alive. Keach is very good in this one as is Warner and Debbie Harry - who plays Dr. Lock’s very loyal nurse.

The Eye takes Body Bags to some more serious territory which makes it a refreshing capper. Mark Hamill plays baseball player, Brent Mathews, an unfortunate soul who loses his eye in a gory accident when he crashes his car. Again, we have another doctor here to help our main character in this desperate time. Dr. Lang (horror legend, John Agar, Tarantula) proposes the use of a donor eye. What Brent doesn’t know is that this eye was inside the socket of a serial killer. Brent starts to bring a little bit of that serial killer out when he gets home and becomes delusional.

Before he knows it, he’s making love to his wife (Twiggy) and he starts seeing the body of a dead woman’s corpse. Some cool FX are on display here by the wizards at KNB studios, we also get to see another nice cameo in addition to Agar by Roger Corman and to top it off solid performance by Hamill make Hooper’s contribution a good one.

The extras are what you’ve come to expect with many of the Scream Factory releases – excellent. There is an audio commentary with Carpenter and Carradine on The Gas Station, another commentary with Carpenter and Keach on Hair and producer Sandy King chats about The Eye with Justin Beahm. Unzipping Body Bags is a documentary where Carpenter and producer Sandy King go into great detail about each film and how it came to be as a Showtime production. Carpenter talks about bringing some of his legendary genre buddies to the project (Raimi, Craven, Corman, Hooper etc.) to the project and even talks about the always interesting MPAA and their censorship on the movie. Scream Factory’s Blu-ray / DVD is uncut here, so no need to panic as the grue is thankfully intact.

Body Bags is a lot of fun and looks and sounds very good on this release. Not Carpenter’s best, but still a must buy for anyone looking for a goofy and gory anthology. Recommended.

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