We have another anthology film, with a more modern take on the genre – following in the success of HBO’s Tales from the Crypt – and this one with some legends of horror cinema attached.
Body Bags (1993)
Cast and Crew
Directed by John Carpenter (segments “The Gas Station”, “Hair”) and Tobe Hooper (segment “Eye”)
Written by Billy Brown & Dan Angel
Released by Showtime Networks
John Carpenter as The Coroner (segment “The Morgue”)
Tom Arnold as Morgue Worker #1 (segment “The Morgue”)
Tobe Hooper as Morgue Worker #2 (segment “The Morgue”)
Robert Carradine as Bill (segment “The Gas Station”)
Alex Datcher as Anne (segment “The Gas Station”)
Peter Jason as Gent (segment “The Gas Station”)
Molly Cheek as Divorcee (segment “The Gas Station”)
Wes Craven as Pasty Faced Man (segment “The Gas Station”)
Sam Raimi as Dead Bill (segment “The Gas Station”)
David Naughton as Pete (segment “The Gas Station”)
George ‘Buck’ Flower as Stranger (segment “The Gas Station”) (as Buck Flower)
Lucy Boryer as Peggy (segment “The Gas Station”)
Roger Rooks as TV Anchorman (segment “The Gas Station”)
Stacy Keach as Richard Coberts (segment “Hair”)
David Warner as Dr. Lock (segment “Hair”)
Sheena Easton as Megan (segment “Hair”)
Dan Blom as Dennis (segment “Hair”)
Attila as Man with Beautiful Hair (segment “Hair”)
Kim Alexis as Woman with Beautiful Hair (segment “Hair”)
Greg Nicotero as Man with Dog (segment “Hair”)
Debbie Harry as The Nurse (segment “Hair”) (as Deborah Harry)
Mark Hamill as Brent Matthews (segment “Eye”)
Twiggy as Cathy Matthews (segment “Eye”)
John Agar as Dr. Lang (segment “Eye”)
Roger Corman as Dr. Bregman (segment “Eye”)
Charles Napier as Baseball Team Manager (segment “Eye”)
Eddie Velez as Baseball Player (segment “Eye”)
Betty Muramoto as Librarian (segment “Eye”)
Bebe Drake as Nurse (segment “Eye”) (as Bebe Drake-Massey)
Sean McClory as Minister (segment “Eye”)
Late night in the morgue, a “Coroner” tells the stories behind how three people ended up on his table.
“The Gas Station”
A young college student, Anne, ends up working the late-night shift at a gas station near Haddonfield, Illinois, not long after a serial killer (who isn’t Michael Meyers) has broken out of an insane asylum. She now faces a nervous night wondering if any of her customers is actually a murderer…
A middle-aged man, Richard, is starting to lose his hair, and his relationship with his girlfriend is straining because of this. After seeing an ad for hair implants on TV, he goes to Dr. Lock for the procedure. What he’ll actually get is far more than he bargained for…
A minor league baseball player, Brent, is about to be called up to the majors, when he gets in a car accident and his right eye is damaged. Rather than risking his career, he agrees to undergo an experimental medical procedure to have the eye transplant from a deceased patent. However, when he starts experiencing murderous urges and strange visions after the transplant, Brent has to find out if something else came with his new eye…
Body Bags wears its origin – the backdoor pilot to a planned horror anthology series on Showtime – on its sleeve. However, it also makes it clear that unlike some of the other series that came gunning for Tales from the Crypt’s throne (*cough*Freddy’sNightmares*cough*) Body Bags came to play hardball, and its pedigree – both in terms of the people behind and in front of the camera, shows it.
Finally, three stories feels like just the right number for an anthology like this. Tales from the Crypt (1972) felt a little over-crowded, where this gives everything time to develop.
Also, while Carpenter’s Coroner can get fairly crass, of the various Cryptkeeper-alikes, this one feels like it works – even better in this case than Robert Englund did as Freddy Kruger.
“The Gas Station” and “Eye” each have a couple of different problems. “The Gas Station” is like a slasher film stuck on the perspective of the Final Girl, who never really sees the murders happening around her until most of the other characters are left. It’s a novel concept, and of all people you’d think John Carpenter would be the one to pull it off, but it feels like to make this work you’d have to give the viewer just a little bit of information that Anne doesn’t have – someone getting pulled out of frame when Anne is looking away, that sort of thing. With “Eye” – the finale isn’t quite pulled off right. It almost works, but it runs into a few issues with the payoff, without getting into spoilers.
Also, the CG we get in “Hair” hasn’t aged well, though thankfully it’s used sparingly.
Finally, this didn’t get picked up for a full season order.
Originality: “The Gas Station” is clearly Carpenter riffing on his own work, and “Eye”, well, without giving away the twist, is taking a clear riff from a novel that has been adapted into several other films in the past. “Hair” fits in well with the Tales from the Crypt style, with a story that could have appeared the comic, but never did, which I think is what makes it actually the most original of the bunch. 4/6
Effects: The CG, where it’s used, doesn’t hold up well, but otherwise actually the film uses effects, even gore ones, fairly sparingly, but what else is used works fairly well. 4/6
Production: The set design is generally well done, but where things really shine is the makeup we get, especially in “Hair” and “Eye”. Also, they select probably what was, if not my first choice, then what would have been my second choice for a catalog song in “Hair” – and it fits in perfectly. 5/6
Acting: The performances in the film are generally pretty good across the board – with particular praise going to Warner, Hamill, and Twiggy. Carpenter also does the horror anthology host schtick incredibly well. Honestly, if he were, in his retirement, to come gunning for Svenghooli (or Joe Bob Briggs), he’s the guy for the job. 5/6
Story: Each of the 3 stories, narratively, work fairly well, with the exceptions of the issues mentioned under Low Points. 4/6
Emotional Response: Body Bags does I’m looking for in a horror anthology, both a film, but also a TV series, had this been picked up for a full season – a succession of complete stories with enough time to develop their characters, build a solid sense of tension, with a horror payoff at the end. 5/6
Overall: I would watch more of this – at least another 9 stories of it anyway, for a 12-episode season. 5/6
In conclusion, Body Bags gets 32 out of 42.
Yet One More for the Drawer:
2: Tales from the Crypt (1972)
9. Suspiria (2018)
16:Vampire Circus (1972)
23: Dune (2021)
Body Bags (1993)
31. Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (2019)
I haven’t seen this one, but I enjoy a well-done horrror anthology film/series, so I’ll have to catch this one.
Our final review, tomorrow, could have been an anthology movie, but they went in a slightly different direction.