The opener is the best of the bunch, documenting the first — and quite possibly the last — night shift worked by a pretty young college student (Alex Datcher, Passenger 57) at a gas station. She sits locked in the cashier’s booth as a serial killer lurks close. The suspense gets to her as much as it gets to you, and it’s better than maybe all but one of the half-dozen features Carpenter helmed ever since.
Body Bags‘ other two tales are similar to one another in theme, both updates of well-known parables. A balding Stacy Keach (The Bourne Legacy) finds new hair to be the bane of his vain existence, while Mark Hamill (Star Wars, duh) gains a new eye … and then some.
Shout! Factory’s Blu-ray/DVD combo pack means greedy eBay sellers no longer will garner hundreds of dollars for a VHS tape. Under the Scream Factory label, Shout! could’ve just released Body Bags to a happy fan base and called it a day, but nope — it went the extra mile with separate commentary tracks for each segment, a 20-minute featurette and Showtime’s original trailer, which is in as poor shape as the Blu-ray presentation is superb.
Also new from Shout!/Scream is Carpenter’s pre-Halloween feature, 1976’s Assault on Precinct 13, for which the young turk merged elements of Night of the Living Dead with his beloved Westerns to craft a siege film of the highest (dis)order.
Following the death of six of their members at the hands of L.A. law enforcement, the Street Thunder gang surrounds and proceeds to infiltrate a neighborhood police station over the course of one long night with no explanation, much to the horror of the bullet-dodging cops and Death Row prisoners inside, who must band together in order to stay alive.
Packed with extras on this edition, Assault carries a lot of first-film flaws, primarily in initial pacing and amateur acting. But Carpenter’s idea is so solid that once the action kicks in, you’re hooked for the ride that follows. This is a movie that doesn’t pull many punches — the shocking ice-cream truck scene illustrates this — and it’s got a theme song that won’t get out of your head. —Rod Lott
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