Three tales curated from an unknown morgue by a ghoulish coroner
as he opens each body bag and tells a story about the occupant.
Body Bags (1993)
Directed by John Carpenter and Tobe Hooper
Written by Billy Brown and Dan Angel
Starring John Carpenter, Stacy Keach, Alex Datcher,
Mark Hamill, Robert Carradine, Tom Arnold,
Sam Raimi, Wes Craven, Roger Corman
I've stated before about my love of anthologies and that I'll watch them whenever they come on. In film class I was always studying the short films to see how effective a filmmaker could be within a few minutes. There are well known pieces like Creepshow, Trick 'r Treat, and Two Evil Eyes and I think that Body Bags falls just beneath these. You'd think with John Carpenter and Tobe Hooper it'd be a home run. For me this is a solid anthology but it feels a little dated whereas the aforementioned films have a timeless quality to them.
First up is John Carpenter's "Gas Station." It's set in Haddonfield but has nothing to do with its most famous Boogeyman. Instead we are following Ann (Datcher) a young college student starting her first graveyard shift at a gas station. She meets Bill (played wonderfully by Robert Carradine who won 80's fame in Revenge of the Nerds) and gets the "grand tour" of the box she'll be working in. Wes Craven makes a cameo as a creepy dude in a suit buying cigarettes. David Naughton (from the best werewolf movie ever, An American Werewolf in London) is also in this (the cast is stellar) and flirts with Ann before leaving. Carpenter sets up the events pretty well and the viewer is given crucial information that tips us to the fact that Ann is in serious trouble. The red stuff isn't spared either. Off to a great start! 8/10
The Coroner (Carpenter) is with us from the beginning and in between each segment cracking macabre jokes and sipping on formaldehyde. He does a decent job as this film's Crypt Keeper because that's exactly what he is. It's established from the beginning that the Coroner is telling the stories behind each corpse in the bag so his interludes are never a distraction.
Up next is "Hair" directed by Carpenter as well. This segment is about Richard (Stacy Keach) and his obsession with losing his hair. He tries to comb it just right but his insecurity is getting the best of him and he's becoming desperate. One day a commercial, reminiscent of the terrible Hair Club for Men spots that were all over TV in the 90's, promises a cure for what Richard is seeking: hair. There is a jazzy score in this piece that really adds to the comedy of Richard's desperation. Richard meets Dr. Lock and his sexy nurse (played by Debbie Harry) who convince Richard to take the treatment. Naturally, things go wrong for Richard after the treatment and the twist at the end is okay as this guy clearly got more than he bargained for. It's more goofy than outright scary to me but good nonetheless. 7/10
Finally we have "Eye" directed by Tobe Hooper. Mark Hamill plays baseball player Brent Matthews, a God-fearing man hoping to make it to the majors. A terrible car accident caused by him reaching for a tape to play, this plants this story firmly in the 90's, and he avoids a deer but not a telephone pole. From the title I'm sure you can surmise what he lost: his eye. His doctor (played by the legendary Roger Corman) says his career might be saved by an experimental eye transplant. There's no guarantee it'll work but Brent takes the chance. Of course it can't be that simple and Brent starts to have nasty headaches and visions that terrify him and his wife, Cathy. The donor of Brent's eye wasn't a very good person (he was recently executed serial killer John Randle) and slowly he becomes possessed by the visions he's having, driving him insane. Seeing Mark Hamill in this way was a little jarring but he pulls it off very well. He changes from loving husband to murderous maniac on a dime and it's effective. A great finish to the trio. 8/10
By the end we learn that the Coroner is actually one of the corpses awaiting autopsy and he takes his place on a cold steel slab. The actual coroners are played by Tom Arnold and Tobe Hooper. Overall I would say this is a solid anthology with great music by Carpenter that definitely fits in the party movie category. It's on Shudder and was recently released on Blu-ray by Scream Factory. This belongs on your shelf alongside other great anthologies because these are the perfect movies to put on and crack open some cold ones with your friends.