The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


Body Bags

In August of 1993, the Showtime network aired a horror anthology called Body Bags. It was supposed to be their answer to HBO's hit Tales From the Crypt, although they never took it to series. Nonetheless, thanks to the participation of noted directors John Carpenter and Tobe Hooper, the film has amassed a cult following over the years via VHS and DVD editions. Body Bags will make its Blu-Ray debut on November 12, in an extras-laden special edition from Scream Factory.

Carpenter appears as the on-camera host, a creepy, pun-happy coroner who introduces three chilling tales, the first two of which he directed. “The Gas Station” is about a young woman (Alex Datcher) spending her first night on the job at an isolated fuel station. We know there's a murderous psycho looming outside, and the story builds tension as she keeps coming out of her booth for one reason or another. Every time you think something bad will happen, it doesn't – until you let your guard down. “Hair” stars Stacy Keach as a man who can't accept that he's losing his locks. He signs up for a Hair Club For Men-type procedure, only to find that it makes him grow hair in ways he doesn't want. This section nicely mixes tongue-in-cheek humor with horror, and Keach gives a terrific performance. The final story, directed by Hooper, is called “Eye.” Mark Hamill plays a baseball player who loses an eye in an accident. He undergoes experimental surgery to replace it. What he doesn't know, until he begins having terrible hallucinations, is that his new eye previously belonged to a killer. As befitting the director of Texas Chainsaw Massacre, “Eye” is the most gruesome and gory of the Body Bags tales.

If there's a problem with horror anthologies – or cinematic anthologies of any sort, for that matter – it's that the stories are designed to lead to an abrupt payoff; because the plots are less detailed than a full-length feature, it can be easy to see the payoff coming long before it gets there. Body Bags is no exception, although this fact is mitigated greatly by its many pleasures. There is still a significant amount of suspense, a healthy dose of black humor, and a number of good performances. The film also exemplifies what I refer to as “fun” horror, meaning that while it may contain gruesome ideas and graphic gore, it doesn't possess the mean-spiritedness that some films in the genre revel in. There is a winking quality to it all, as evidenced by cameos from such horror luminaries as Roger Corman, Sam Raimi, and Wes Craven.

Scream Factory has nicely transferred the movie to Blu-Ray, and the bonus features are very entertaining. John Carpenter and Robert Carradine (who co-stars) provide audio commentary for “The Gas Station.” Carpenter and Stacy Keach do commentary on “Hair,” while “Eye” has commentary from producer Sandy King. “Unzipping Body Bags” is a retrospective featurette on the movie that finds Carpenter, King, Carradine, and Keach reflecting back on the project and its production. Keach is particularly amusing, as he discusses his own attempts to cure baldness. Also in this doc, you'll hear why Carpenter and King declined Showtime's offer to turn Body Bags into a regular series. Finally, there's a special trailer that was designed to be shown in theaters, despite the film's cable origins.

All told, this Blu-Ray/DVD combo pack is another solid release from Scream Factory, as it once again proves their commitment to preserving interesting and unusual horror fare.

For more information on this title, please visit the Scream Factory website.

John Carpenter Presents Body Bags is unrated, but contains graphic violence, nudity, and adultlanguage. The running time is 1 hour and 35 minutes.

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