Director: John Carpenter, Tobe Hooper, Larry Sulkis
Cast: John Carpenter, Tom Arnold, Tobe Hooper, Robert Carradine
Length: 96 min
Disks: 2 (1 BD, 1 DVD)
Label: SHOUT! Factory
Release Date: Nov 12th, 2013
Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
Audio: English: DTS-HD Audio 5.1, DTS-HD Audio 2.0
- Unzipping Body Bags – Featurette with cast and crew interviews
- Audio Commentary with director John Carpenter, producer Sandy King, and actors Stacy Keach and Robert Carradine
- Theatrical Trailer
In a strange, coincidental way, John Carpenter is a filmmaker whose work seems fitting for an anthology. Tight, moody and often times self-contained, his work often never carried Oscar-level drama whilst also providing some of the weightiest and most engrossing genre tales to ever show their face in cinema. Hence, when Showtime came knocking for Body Bags, their response to HBO’s immensely popular Tales from the Crypt, Carpenter seemed like the man for the job. However, the tail end of Tales from the Crypt’s popularity was in sight, and Showtime ended the series before it even started, instead taking the three episodes previously shot and weaving them with a Larry Sulkis-directed wraparound starring Carpenter himself to make an anthology TV movie.
With one segment directed by Tobe Hooper, who makes a cameo appearance in the film, Body Bags is otherwise entirely a Carpenter affair, carrying his mischievous humor, his creepy atmosphere and his masterful wrangling of naturally charismatic character actors. In a way, the potential for the series is somewhat detrimental to the film itself, as the segments play with the boiling undertones of a missed opportunity, but is otherwise incredibly worthwhile, both in concept and execution. It’s possibly the most fun- and absurd- horror anthology since Creepshow, and with the new Blu-ray from SHOUT! Factory, Body Bags has a chance to reach an audience farther than it ever has previously.
Body Bags is a nice excursion into bizarre and surprisingly subversive horror, each packaged in a half-hour story that feels closer to extended B-plots as opposed to a three act narrative. This is not a bad thing at all, as Carpenter knows the mechanics of the horror genre to a T and is more playful here than he is in almost all of his ‘90s output. Whereas Hooper’s segment, “Eye,” fits tonally with the other stories, there’s more of a bleak sense of dread in that piece as opposed to the other Carpenter-directed segments. But overall, the film works elements of suspense and eccentricity into one another, and gives an aura that’s exquisitely more fun than frightening.
Carpenter puts his masterful skills to good use, to give the anthology a stronger visual sense than most within the subgenre. Gary Kibbe’s cinematography is incredibly strong and visually glorious, and also helps establish the continuity between Hooper and Carpenter’s segments. Of course, KNB’s special effects are stellar as usual, with Carpenter’s own make-up in the wraparound segment only enhanced by the dutiful work of Rick Baker. And the score from Carpenter and Jim Lang is great, emphasizing the tone of the film and allowing the quieter moments to retain the momentum of the fun that precedes them.
Possibly the greatest asset of the anthology, Body Bags features an incredible cast of genre greats and horror legends throughout all three segments and even the wraparound. Starring Robert Carradine, Mark Hamill, David Warner, Stacy Keach, Tom Arnold and Deborah Harry, Body Bags adds an extra dimension of grinning awareness to its cast. The film also includes appearances from Carpenter, Hooper, Sam Raimi, Wes Craven, and Roger Corman, essentially giving the film a guessing game of icons throughout. The cast is all dutiful with their work in here, treating it the same way they would any dramatic project, which is even more impressive as the natural ridiculousness of each scenario drives the film firmly into the world of humorous horror whilst avoiding the traps of cartoonish camp.
An incredible transfer, SHOUT! restores Body Bags to it’s 1.78 : 1 presentation and does a wonderful job of finding a clean and beautiful print to work from. Colors are lush and hypnotically neon via in-camera saturation, the edges are perfectly defined and the grain is apparent but never detrimental. There is very little sign of crush and sharpness is present from top to bottom. Overall, the picture is much better than a for-television production would normally entail, and SHOUT! gives fans the high definition Body Bags they deserve.
SHOUT! rises to the occasion once more, creating a mix that’s painstakingly crafted to hit each moment with necessary emphasis. The score is leveled wonderfully, and the diegetic noises and cues are enhanced in this new mix to give the scary moments a more startling effect. And of course, the dialogue is crystal clear, which is instrumental to Carpenter’s natural strengths.
Disappointingly light, as to the nature of the production, SHOUT! offers what they can, including a non-essential 20 Minute Cast/Crew Interview, enjoyable Vintage Trailer, and a rousing, sometimes fascinating and often times funny Audio Commentary featuring Carpenter, Keach and Robert Carradine, as well as a Sandy King as hosted by Justin Boehm.
For Carpenter collectors, Body Bags is a definite purchase, but for casual horror fans, the influx of humor may be a dealbreaker. However, fun should never be detrimental to a film, especially one as strong as Body Bags. Don’t be surprised if the film sneaks into your brain and stays there as long as it needs to.