The first full segment, "The Gas Station", has all the right ingredients. A college student (Alex Datcher) does what she can to scare up a little extra money by working the graveyard shift at some hopelessly remote gas station. Anne tries to pass the time by cramming for a Psych 402 final, but instead of just reading about psychopathic behavior in an overpriced textbook, she gets an opportunity to witness it firsthand. This sleepy little service station is in the Haddonfield city limits, after all, and Michael Myers isn't the only unhinged serial killer to call it home. "The Gas Station" invests so much time establishing its premise...how isolated the service station is, how it's the absolute dead of night, and how easily Anne can get herself locked out of her fortified little station. This segment never really bothers with the claustrophobic horror setpieces it teases at, though, instead devoting the overwhelming majority of its runtime to setup and then rushing through a couple minutes' worth of routine stalk-and-slash to close it all out. The casting of the serial killer is very inspired, and cameos by the likes of Sam Raimi, Wes Craven, and David Naughton are a welcomed distraction, but the pacing is way too uneven.
Carpenter steps up to the plate a second time to helm "Hair", an almost unrecognizably different segment that still suffers from some of the same missteps. Where "The Gas Station" is a cold slasher, "Hair" is a goofy, over-the-top comedy. Stacy Keach -- the once and future Mike Hammer! -- plays against type as a schlub who thinks his rapidly thinning hairline makes him less of a man. His desperation to look as if he has a full head of hair winds up ::sniffles!:: alienating the woman he loves (a way-too-foxy Sheena Easton) too. There's gotta be an answer out there, and Richard finds it exactly where you'd expect it to be: late night TV. That new hair rejuvenation treatment that Doc Lock (David Warner) is shilling does the trick too, and
The most effective of the three segments is the one that Carpenter didn't direct. Tobe Hooper closes out the trilogy by taking the reins of "Eye", the story of a promising minor league hitter (Mark Hamill) who's blinded in a car wreck. Whatever hopes Brent had of clawing his way into the majors are dead and buried now. A surgeon (John Agar, in one of his last performances) fills him in on an experimental procedure -- one that's never even been attempted before, but Brent is a perfect candidate, and he just so happens to have gotten his hands on the perfect donor eye. The transplant is a success too! Well, I guess there's one complication. You wanna know what Brent spies with his newly-implanted eye...? He sees dead people. "Eye" is by far the most brutal and visceral segment in this anthology, and there's no performance in Body Bags that approaches the intensity of Mark Hamill's here. A feral sex scene is genuinely disturbing, and although the Shining-inspired sequence near the end is far too short, it's wildly effective while it lasts. I also can't help but smirk at the presence of Roger Corman as one of Brent's doctors, mostly because the ending of "Eye" owes so much to his own X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes.
Body Bags is an okay way to kill an hour and a half. None of its segments are disasters, and it gets enough right -- especially with its inspired casting -- to make even the patchier stretches seem worthwhile. Still, there's only one really good vignette here, and even it isn't enough to salvage an otherwise mediocre anthology. Watchable but not exactly recommended. Rent It.
Making its first-ever appearance in widescreen on home video, Body Bags looks pretty solid on Blu-ray. Definition and detail can vary somewhat from shot to shot, but they're generally right where they oughtta be, to the point that you don't have to grade on a curve for this being a twenty year old made-for-cable horror anthology and all. Its colors are nicely saturated, there really isn't any wear or speckling to get in the way, and there's
Body Bags' AVC encode spans both layers of this BD-50 disc.
Body Bags piles on a pair of 24-bit DTS-HD Master Audio soundtracks: one in stereo and the other in 5.1. I'm not sure if it's a shiny, sparklingly new remix or not, but this is the first home video release of Body Bags in 5.1, anyway. I wouldn't exactly rank this up there with Scream Factory's best sounding discs. The film's dialogue sounds really strained and sibilant, and fidelity across the board is pretty underwhelming. I didn't notice much of anything other than music in the surround channels, and bass response tends to be dull and rumbly. Very few effects pack much of a wallop, even a serial killer relentlessly pounding on safety glass with a sledgehammer. Only "Eye" gets a chokehold on the subwoofer to reinforce the thunder and a couple of colossal stings in the score. It's pretty bland, boxy, and lifeless all around.
No dubs. Subtitles are limited to English (SDH).
This combo pack also serves up an anamorphic widescreen DVD. I really love the cover art by Justin Osbourne -- I always confused the original VHS cover with Rumpelstiltskin, for some reason -- and it looks even better on the slipcover.
The Final Word
I'm a sucker for horror anthologies, and I especially appreciate what Body Bags is aiming for, trying to tackle everything that John Carpenter loves so much about horror in three very different vignettes. Hardly any of it works. The first two stories have promise but are far too poorly paced, Carpenter's ghoulish mortician comes across as a second-rate Crypt Keeper, and no matter how effective Tobe Hooper's "Eye" is that closes out the anthology, the damage has pretty much already been done. I had a lot of fun with the onslaught of cameos and the casting of familiar faces in unexpected roles, but the whole thing is a little too mediocre to warrant more than a rental. Rent It.