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SHOUT! FACTORY

MOVIE INFO

Director:
John Carpenter, Tobe Hooper
Cast:
John Carpenter, Tom Arnold, Tobe Hooper, Robert Carradine, Wes Craven, Sam Raimi, Alex Datcher, Stacy Keach, Mark Hamill
Writing Credits:
Billy Brown, Dan Angel

Tagline:
Zip yourself in tight!

Synopsis:
Two Masters of Horror John Carpenter and Tobe Hooper come together to create a chilling anthology of terror.

Alex Datcher stars as a woman working the late shift at "The Gas Station" while a killer is on the loose. Then, Stacy Keach can’t stand the thought of losing his "Hair" and he’ll do anything to keep it. And finally, Mark Hamill portrays a baseball player that submits to an "Eye" transplant after he loses an eye in a car accident.

Featuring guest appearances by Deborah Harry, Sheena Easton, Twiggy, David Naughton, John Agar, David Warner and cameos by Wes Craven, Tobe Hooper and Roger Corman, Body Bags delivers a fright-filled night of horror.

MPAA:
Rated NR

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
Audio:
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
English DTS-HD MA 2.0
Subtitles:
English
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
None

Runtime: 95 min.
Price: $29.93
Release Date: 11/12/2013

Bonus:
• Audio Commentary with Director John Carpenter and Actors Robert Carradine and Stacy Keach and Producer Sandy King
• “Unzipping Body Bags” Featurette
• Trailer
• DVD Copy


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EQUIPMENT
Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


Body Bags [Blu-Ray] (1993)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (October 26, 2013)

Created for the Showtime cable network, 1993’s Body Bags goes the anthology route, as we find a film with three separate chapters/stories. John Carpenter handles two of these, while Tobe Hooper directs the other one.

Carpenter dominates Bags, though; in an obvious nod to the Cryptkeeper, Carpenter plays a creepy Coroner who introduces all of the stories. Here’s what we find:

The Gas Station (directed by Carpenter): Anne (Alex Datcher) gets a new job where she works the late-night shift at a filling station. During her first night on the job, she needs to deal with a threat from a psychotic serial killer.

A psychotic serial killer whose identity the viewer will figure out within roughly the first 12.4 seconds of the film. “Station” throws red herrings our way, and with a mix of cameos from folks connected to other horror films, these can be fun. However, they don’t negate the segment’s predictability.

Nor can they counter its stupidity. In “Station”, Carpenter self-plagiarizes Halloween as a less effective effort with a dumber lead character. When things turn weird, why doesn’t Anne call the cops in the first place? Why does she so frequently leave the security of her locked booth when she knows danger exists? Why does the killer cut the phone line in a separate office, not the one used by Alex?

Good questions I can’t answer. Again, the cameos add some enjoyment value, but “Station” otherwise turns into an idiotic dud.

Hair (directed by Carpenter): Concerned about his hair loss, Richard Coberts (Stacy Keach) goes to a clinic to deal with those issues. This doesn’t go as he hopes.

After the dopey “Station”, Bags rebounds with the more effective “Hair”. If nothing else, it doesn’t telegraph its material ala its predecessor. Sure, we know that a terrible twist will materialize – it’s a horror flick, after all – but the segment itself does nothing to tip us off in advance.

That narrative subtlety works well, though “subtle” probably isn’t the right word given the sequence’s overtly comic feel. Keach handles both the comedy and the drama well and helps make this a fun, surprising segment.

Oh, and I’d forgotten how hot Sheena Easton – cast here as Richard’s girlfriend – was in her prime.

Eye (directed by Hooper): Long-time minor league baseball player Brent Matthews (Mark Hamill) goes on a hot streak that leaves him on the verge of a call-up to the bigs. However, he gets into a massive car wreck that causes the loss of his right eye. Faced with the end of his career, Brent submits to a radical eye transplant procedure. He soon undergoes horrific visions and traumatic nightmares.

After the camp and comedy of the first two segments, “Eye” goes for a more serious vibe, as it takes on psychological horror. Does Brent experience actual complications related to his transplanted eye or is it in all his fevered mind?

While I’m glad “Eye” veers away from the tone of its predecessors, I can’t say it works especially well. Actually, it’s moderately interesting for a while, but burdened by too many pretensions and an iffy performance from a miscast Hamill, it’s only occasionally interesting.

The same goes for Bags as a whole. It has its moments and at least none of the segments lasts long enough to overstay its welcome. Still, it’s awfully spotty and not satisfying in the end.


The Disc Grades: Picture C+/ Audio D+/ Bonus C+

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.

Viewer Film Ratings: 5 Stars Number of Votes: 2
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