Halloween Scene Blu Review: Scream Factory’s Body Bags (1993)

body bags I love seeing horror movies that I’ve heard about over the years but never actually seen. I also love the TLC that Shout Factory’s Scream Factory imprint gives to films like that as far as presentation and special features go. So, as you might expect, I loved Scream Factory’s recent Body Bags Blu-ray.

Originally conceived as a Tales From The Crypt-like horror anthology series for Showtime. Body Bags features director John Carpenter as The Coroner, a creepy, pun-loving ghoul who opens various black bags in the morgue and tells the person’s tale. Carpenter directed the first two installments, “The Gas Station” and “Hair” while Texas Chainsaw Massacre mastermind Tobe Hooper came in and did “The Eye.” As with most of the horror anthologies I’ve seen — like Cat’s Eye or Creepshow 2 —  this one features two solid stories and one weaker one.

I loved “The Gas Station.” It’s about a young woman named Anne (Alex Datcher) working over night in a gas station in one of those small booths so she can take money and sell cigarettes. While there she encounters a few creepy regulars, a few nice guys and a bum-murdering adversary who wants to add her to his kill list. Carpenter does a killer job of making this whole thing feel tense and dangerous. There’s a scene where Anne locks herself out of the booth and has to go find keys in the main building. I got super nervous during this portion of the short. Then you’ve got the end where she actually faces the killer. It’s great how Carpenter never leaves the gas station and makes it seem both cramped and huge depending on the scene.

There are a lot of fear elements here, many of which are simply related to work. She’s new, wants to prove herself and also make herself seem super capable. This seems like less of a pride thing and more a need for cash to keep putting herself through school, which is super important to her. You’re also dealing with the claustrophobia of the booth which goes from safe zone to cage and the seemingly expansive space between it and the main building.

Sometimes with anthologies or shorter form horror stories, they feel like truncated films, but I thought this story was perfectly suited for this format and used the timing well. Too much longer and it would be filled with too many fakeouts and lose suspense, which it has in spades.

SPOILERS THIS PARAGRAPH I want to talk a bit about the killer reveal in this one. Carpenter set up several possibilities for the killer in the forms of various customers — including a super-creepy Wes Craven — but I’ve got to say, I never once thought it was going to be Anne’s fellow employee played by Revenge Of The Nerds star Robert Carradine. He got me there. Even though I didn’t recognize Carradine right away, I knew he was a nice guy and didn’t even think about him again  I also liked how Carpenter included a few nods to his other films like when Carradine’s character does the background sit-up Michael Myers style with Anne in the foreground.

I wasn’t nearly as interested in “Hair” which stars Stacey Keach as an aging rich business guy who becomes obsessed with his thinning hair. I understand that this is something that does get into peoples’ heads, but it’s not really on my radar. Anyway, Keach goes to Doctor Lock whose method for hair growth seems to work really well, so well in fact that hair starts growing everywhere. I won’t get into the end reveal, but I’ll say it didn’t do much for me. I’ve actually gone back and watched this segment with an eye for the satire of it all and enjoyed it a lot more. 

Thankfully, I enjoyed the third installment, “Eye” starring Mark Hamill and Twiggy. Hamill plays baseball player Brent Miller who gets into a car accident that leads to the loss of an eye. He gets a transplant, but soon comes to realize that this new organ might be a bit defective as he begins seeing morbid scenes some of which are genuinely spooky. As it turns out the new eye came from a misogynistic killer who starts taking over his body which doesn’t work out so well for his wife. This is definitely the darkest, most intense entry in the series as Hamill struggles for his sanity.

It’s funny, while watching the movie again with audio commentary, “The Gas Station” whizzes by. The first time I watched, I was so absorbed and freaked out that it felt like a feature. Carpenter also points out that he used a station out in the middle of nowhere so it would feel even more remote and lonely. He also pointed out a number of shot set-ups that add to the feel of the picture. Carradine also joined in on the fun. The pair caught up a bit and talked about a few other things, but mainly stuck to the story at hand offering lots of insider details.

Keach comes on and does the same for “Hair” and it’s a ton of fun listening to these two longtime pros talk craft. More than that, Keach says that this story was very personal for him because his parents always told him to wear his hairpiece in part because his dad thought he didn’t make it as an actor for being bald. They even went off on a bit of a tangent about zombie movies after pointing out effects artist Greg Nicotero in a quick shot which was a lot of fun. Listening to this track actually framed the story in a better light for me which will definitely make repeated viewings more fun.

For “Eye” Hooper wasn’t available, so producer (and Carpenter’s wife) Sandy King and Justin Beahm talked about not only his segment, but also some of the goings on behind the scenes that went into filming the various segments and how the movie came to be. This one’s a bit more dry, but still really interesting.

The last major bonus feature on the disc is a doc called Unzipping Body Bags. Carpenter and King get a little more into the background of the show, which started out as an anthology script that they presented to Showtime who bit. So, they decided to do the first one without much thought to anything beyond this first offering. Carradine and Keach also joined in on the doc, which adds a lot of depth to the proceedings.

I’ve been on a John Carpenter kick lately and this movie just continues to build my feelings of affection for this director who has such weird, great sensibilities that have resulted in some of the most fun, creepy and adventurous films around.

Nerdy Double Feature: Spring Break (1983) & Revenge of the Nerds III The Next Generation (1993)

That’s just a delightfully weird movie poster isn’t it? I remember seeing this box at the video store back when they still rented videos and I was a kid. It seemed pretty scandalous at the time and I probably thought it was about shrinking kids or monstrously huge women. Now, I know that it’s a simple spring break comedy directed by Sean S. Cunningham, the man who birthed the Jason franchise. I’ll admit, my curiosity was piqued as I’d never seen a non-horror film by the man and I appreciate when directors have the ability to bounce between genres.

I kind of loved this movie with all its unexpected weirdness. The story follows these two nerdy guys heady to spring break who want to let loose and meet women, even though the one kid’s step dad is a politician and wants him to not cause trouble. That’s pretty normal enough, but then two other guys from NYC show up (one carrying a potted plant for some reason) and they end up being in the same room. You think it’s going to turn into an “us vs. them” movie between the nerds and the cooler guys, but instead they join forces and become friends!

Even though you’d assume a movie like this would seem like the prototypical spring break movie, it offered up a lot of surprises and uniqueness that I really liked. Though, something was nagging me while watching it. The plot started feeling familiar, especially the political parent involvement. It wasn’t until talk to Rickey later that he reminded me of the lame straight-to-DVD movie Spring Breakdown starring Parker Posey, Amy Poehler and Rachel Dratch which seems to have stolen a fair number of plot points from this flick. Not cool, especially considering no credit is given.

Spring Break is a fantastically fun movie that I recommend to anyone looking for a fun, upbeat movie to watch this Labor Day weekend. Spring, summer, what’s the difference?

Up next on my nerdy double feature was Revenge of the Nerds III: The Next Generation, an installment of the four-part epic I’d never seen before. I am a gigantic fan of the first movie and it’s message of being yourself. Damn, I feel all pumped up every time I watch it! Anyway, this third installment was…interesting. It’s 1993 and Adams College has been taken over by nerds, which drives some mean old Alpha Beta alumn to hatch a plan to get Stan Gable (the quarterback from the original movie) put in place as the dean to get the power back in the bully AB hands. Somehow it works. We also get introduced to a new generation of nerds, specifically Harold, the nephew of Lewis from the original (he played by Gregg Binkley who played Kenny on My Name Is Earl). As it turns out, Lewis has turned into a yuppie douche who stifles that signature laugh of his and has a douchey ponytail even though he’s happily married to Betty (the girl he banged dressed as Darth Vader in the original). It’s your typical “fallen hero” story and, I know this sounds stupid, but it made me MAD to see him like that.

Anyway, the movie’s got some fun nods to early 90s geekery like the current students laughing at the tech their predecessors had and the doorbell of the TriLamb house playing the Super Mario 3 music (I geeked out pretty hard at that).

This might sound weird, but I wish the movie had taken itself a little bit more seriously. The young nerds do a good job as do most of the returning actors and characters, the real problem lies in the character of the older alumn and some of the directing choices which just goes way over the top into cartoon territory at times. His scenes take you out of the story, which is too bad because otherwise this could have been a really solid made for TV sequel. Still worth checking out if you’re a fan of the series, though, especially with the awesome musical numbers (nowhere near as good as the originals, but still fun, especially the early 90s rap. Fun stuff.

UPDATE: I forgot, Clancy Brown has a small role as a gas station attendant, check it out!