John Carpenter’s Body Bags appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.78:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. This wasn’t an attractive image but it seemed to adequately represent the source.
Sharpness seemed decent to good. A little softness occasionally appeared, but most of the movie showed pretty positive clarity and accuracy. I saw no issues with jaggies or shimmering, and no edge haloes marred the presentation. Grain seemed appropriate, but I noticed occasional specks and blotches; not a lot of those appeared, but they sporadically marred the image.
Colors tended to look bland. The film went with a fairly natural palette but couldn’t bring much life to the hues, so they remained flat. Blacks were okay; they showed acceptable depth but never became especially impressive. Shadows were more of an issue and seemed a bit too dense. Everything here seemed average.
Given its origins as a made-for-cable product, I didn’t expect big-screen audio from the movie’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack, but I didn’t think it’d sound like this mess. Except for the music, the mix essentially remained monaural for the first two segments, as virtually no effects or dialogue came from anywhere other than the front center channel. The score and songs spread around the five channels in a loose manner; separation was decent but felt somewhat artificial.
Surprisingly, “Eye” opened up the soundscape to a large degree. Whereas the first two segments remained restricted, “Eye” used the side and rear channels to provide an active thunderstorm. That sequence worked much better in terms of its soundfield.
Even with the restricted nature of the first two, I didn’t much mind the imaging; it was the quality of the audio that caused concerns. At best, speech sounded boxy, and much of the time the lines were sibilant. I understood the dialogue but felt displeased with the reproduction of this material.
Similar problems affected the rest of the track, as both effects and music displayed a roughness much of the time. Neither managed to sound smooth or natural, as the distortion and blandness made these components unappealing. I was surprised at how bad the movie sounded; even as a made-for-cable effort, I expected better.
When we shift to extras, we find an audio commentary with a changing roster of guests. Director/actor John Carpenter chats during the interstitials as well as “Gas Station” and “Hair”; actor Robert Carradine accompanies him for “Gas Station” and actor Stacy Keach shows up for “Hair”. During “Eye”, producer Sandy King converses with the disc’s producer. Through these running, screen-specific discussions, we learn about story/character areas, we learn about the project’s roots and developments, story/character areas, cast and performances, various effects, the film’s release and related topics.
Carpenter enjoys a strong reputation as an audio commentator, but I don’t think he does it; while some of his tracks are very good, others seem unremakable to bland, and he follows the latter path here. When he chats with the actors, he appears more interested in other aspects of their careers than in their work on Bags, and he also likes to narrate the on-screen action. Occasional filmmaking nuggets emerge, but they’re buried in these slow, rambling conversations.
King’s section fares better, though it has some slow spots as well. Still, she manages to deliver reasonable information about the project, so if you’re going to check out any parts of the commentary, King’s moments merit the most attention. Carpenter simply doesn’t have much to say about the movie.
In addition to the film’s trailer, we find a new featurette called Unzipping Body Bags. During the 20-minute, eight-second piece, we hear from Carpenter, King, Carradine, and Keach. We learn of the project’s origins and development, what made it appealing to Carpenter, cast and performances, story/character subjects, sets and locations, stunts and action, makeup and effects, and why Body Bags didn’t become a series. Some of the info from the commentary repeats here, but “Unzipping” delivers a nice overview.
A second disc provides a DVD copy of Bags. It includes all the same extras as the Blu-ray.
As a horror anthology, Body Bags lacks consistently. It’s best section offers good entertainment but the other two are less compelling – and one of them’s really pretty awful. The Blu-ray provides average picture and bonus materials along with surprisingly poor audio. Diehard John Carpenter fans will want to give this one a look, but I can’t recommend it to others.