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Body Bags – 7

Director – John Carpenter, Tobe Hooper

Cast – John Carpenter, Tom Arnold, Tobe Hooper, Robert Carradine, Alex Datcher, Peter Jason, Wes Craven, Sam Raimi, David Naughton, George “Buck” Flower, Stacy Keach, David Warner, Sheena Easton, Greg Nicotero, Deborah Harry, Mark Hamill, Twiggy, Roger Corman, John Agar

Release Year – 1993

Reviewed by John of the Dead

After 10 straight years of kicking butt from 1978-1988 with horror films Halloween, The Fog, The Thing, Christine, Prince of Darkness and They Live, John Carpenter returned to the genre after a hiatus with the 1993 TV movie, Body Bags. A fan favorite thanks to a cast heavy in horror icons, this anthology gives us three solid tales from directors John Carpenter and Tobe Hooper. This was originally slated to be a television series similar to Tales from the Crypt but Showtime scrapped the idea and the three completed stories were instead pieced together as a TV film. While lacking in gore and kills in comparison to other famous horror anthologies, Body Bags does what it can given its TV movie format and in the end provides for a solid piece made fun by its fanboy cast.

The film begins with John Carpenter as a creepy coroner who intruduces three tales of horror: “The Gas Station”, “Hair”, and “Eye”.

“The Gas Station” follows a Anne, young college student working her first job as a night shift attending for a 24 hour gas station in Haddonfield, Illinois (The birthplace of Michael Myers for you noobs). When word breaks that a serial killer has broken out of a mental hospital, Anne is left on edge as each different car pulls up to the solemn gas station, with any one of them potentially containing the savage killer. Her tension is eased when she realizes she is merely overreacting to her new surroundings, but soon enough she will come face to face with an on-the-job hazard she never expected.

This entry comes directed by John Carpenter and is probably my favorite of the three stories. The atmosphere is great and I loved the idea of it being set at a lonely gas station with few places for Anne to run. Story-wise it is as simple as it gets but is nonetheless effective in its use of the killer, Anne, and Carpenter expertly brings fear to the screen. Robert Carradien portrays the killer while Sam Raimi, Wes Craven, and George “Buck” Flower appear in cameo roles.

Next up is “Hair”, also directed by John Carpenter. Stacy Keach portrays Richard Coberts, a middle-aged businessman whose thinning hair has left him very self-conscious. His obsession with having a full head of hair leads him to the shady Dr. Lock, who gives Richard the full fair he so desires…but at a heavy cost. We have all seen these stories where someone gets their wish granted through unconventional means, only to come back and haunt them in drastic fasion – very Tales from the Crypt-esque. “Hair” is my second favorite story and I found it not only fun but a bit cheesy as well – cheesier than the other films. Keach delivers a great performance that forces him to multiple levels of emotion, and as expected Carpenter’s direction is dead-on. Cameos include David Warner and Greg Nicotero of horror giant KNB Effects.

“Eye” is the last story and my least favorite, coming off a lot like “Hair” and the epic 2004 Hong Kong horror film, The Eye. Mark Hamill stars as Brent Matthews, a professional baseball player whose life and career face serious trouble when he loses his right eye in an automobile accident. Desperate to save his career, he immediately jumps on the opportunityfor an eye transplant from a recently deceased indivisual. The surgery is a success and Brent’s vision is returned to him, but when he begins to suffer erratically violent behavior he soon learns that his new eye belonged to an executed serial killer, leaving him to take drastic measures to save those around him from himself. This piece comes directed by Tobe Hooper and feels like a different film than “Hair” despite some strong similarities. The direction is great and Mark Hamill provides a solid performance in a role that forces him to go to all sorts of extremes and is sure to freak those who only see him as humble Luke Skywalker. While the story overall is a good one (albiet one we’ve seen before) it does drag and that is the biggest reason behind why this was my least favorite. I felt that the horror was fairly low and the story had a bit too much drama that subsequently put the horror in a backseat, and given that this is the final story it left the experience closing nowhere close to how well it started. Supermodel Twiggy portrays Brent’s wife and Roger Corman portrays his doctor. During the closing wraparound sequence we see a shocking revelation behind John Carpenter’s coroner role at the hands of cameo performances from Tom Arnold and Tobe Hooper.

Overall, Body Bags is a fun horror anthology and especially good for a TV movie.

Rating: 7/10

…Additional Stills…

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