Blu-ray Review: John Carpenter Presents Body Bags (Collector’s Edition)

After working with Chevy Chase on Memoirs of an Invisible Man, John Carpenter needed to spend time in a morgue. Chevy has the ability to suck the life out of people. This would not be another major motion picture. Carpenter went back to TV where the horror director had made his mark with Elvis. Except this time he went to Showtime so there was no holding back in the frights. John Carpenter Presents Body Bags was going to be the channel’s rival to HBO’s Tales From the Crypt. Carpenter’s coroner would be a human version of the Cryptkeeper. But sadly there would be no series. Instead the three episodes would be sewn together so Showtime would have an original John Carpenter movie which also included help from Tobe Hooper (Texas Chainsaw Massacre). John Carpenter Presents Body Bags: Collector’s Edition takes us deep within the morgue for tales of how people ended up on the slab.

The trio stories kick off with “Gas Station.” Alex Datcher arrives for her first night on the job manning the bumps. She’s given the quick instructions by Robert Carradine (Revenge of the Nerds) before he clocks out. She picked a bad night to be working the over night shift since there’s a killer on the loose after breaking out of the nearby mental institution. She’s warned to say locked up inside the booth, but that’s a hard order when some customers need extra help. Among the people that knock on the glass are directors Wes Craven and Sam Raimi. “Hair” lets Stacey Keech (Titus). But are they the real psycho? “Hair” plays on Stacey Keach’s thinning hairline. He’s desperate for a cure to baldness. He gets relief from a doctor who claims a quick cure. Keach gets immediate results, but he gets more hair than he bargained for. He’s turning into Cousin It. Now he’s eager to get another cure. “Eye” is Tobe Hooper’s intense installment. Mark Hamill (Star Wars) that loses his eye in a car wreck. He gets a transplant with the hopes of seeing again. What his doctor didn’t count on is that the eye’s former user still has some old visions stuck inside. They aren’t pleasant ones since the former eyeball owner was into murdering women. The eye struggles to take control of Hamill’s body. This episode is loaded with star power including Twiggy, John Agar (Creature from the Black Lagoon), Roger Corman and Charles Napier (Squidbillies). “Eye” will shock youngsters eager to see Luke Skywalker. The Force is not with this character.

John Carpenter Presents Body Bags would have been a fine horror anthology on Showtime. It could have provided more scares than The Hunger. But such was not to be the fate of these three films. As a TV movie, Body Bags works since the framing device is solid. Carpenter’s work as The Coroner is up to the Crypt Keeper’s level of excellence.

The video is 1.78:1. The image looks sharp. They did a fine job shooting these episodes when compared to Tales From the Dark Side. Audio is DTS-HD Master Audio Stereo, 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround and 2.0 Dolby Digital stereo. There’s a nice mix to the horrific action. The movie is subtitled.

Trailer (1:20) is the Showtime trailer that ran in theaters.

Commentary Track features Carpenter, Sandy King, Stacy Keach, Robert Carradine. Stacy and Robert contribute on their respective segments. John admits he liked playing the part of the Coroner.

Unzipping Body Bags
(20:07) explores the Showtime series that became an anthology movie. The odd part about the series is that it did start out as a horror anthology feature script. So by putting the three segments together, it was restored to its natural state. Carpenter and his wife/producer Sandy King explain how Showtime wanted more episodes except they wanted it shot up in Canada at a lower budget. Carpenter didn’t want to do that since it would deny him the ability to get noted guest stars. Rick Baker did the make up effects on John Carpenter’s coroner. John Carpenter, Stacey Keach, Sandy King and Robert Carradine talk about their work.

John Carpenter Presents Body Bags: Collector’s Edition is better than a straight to Showtime movie in 1993 deserved to be. The movie works with the three segments seamed together.

Scream Factory presents John Carpenter Presents Body Bags: Collector’s Edition. Directed by: John Carpenter & Tobe Hooper. Screenplay by: Billy Brown and Dan Angel. Starring: Robert Carradine, Mark Hamill, Debbie Harry, Twiggy and Stacy Keach. Running Time: 95 minutes. Rating: R. Released: November 12, 2013.

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