Movie Review: John Carpenter’s Body Bags
John Carpenter is the mastermind behind such horror films as Halloween, The Thing, The Fog, and They Live. But an often-forgotten horror movie from this director is Body Bags, an anthology film consisting of three short stories. Carpenter directs two of the segments, “The Gas Station” and “Hair”, and he also appears as The Coroner, the host that introduces each segment in wraparound parts. The third segment, “The Eye”, is directed by Tobe Hooper (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Poltergeist), who also appears as a morgue worker in the wraparound.
After watching Body Bags the other night, I realized that I had seen it before, but it had been a very long time. I completely forgot about it until I came across it on Frightpix, a free horror movie streaming app on my Roku. The movie revolves around a coroner, played to perfection by Carpenter, who introduces three stories. The first story, “The Gas Station”, is about a woman on her first night working at a gas station who is stalked by a lunatic killer that has been terrorizing the town. Starring Robert Carradine and Alex Datcher, the segment is a pretty straightforward slasher story that moves along nicely. This is probably the best segment of the three as Carpenter does great work building tension and suspense with some gore thrown in for good measure. Also, look for cameos from genre directors Wes Craven and Sam Raimi.
“Hair” is the second segment and is about a man who is overly upset about losing his hair. He drives himself crazy over his hair loss and tries every method imaginable to regain his hair. It even drives his girlfriend away. But after seeing a commercial, he decides to try a new doctor out and he soon has a full head of hair. Everything in his life seems to be great again. That is until the hair won’t stop growing and he realizes that this doctor has implanted hair on him that is actually alive. Starring Stacy Keach (American History X), David Warner (Titanic), and musicians Sheena Easton and Debbie Harry, “Hair” is seemingly a mock of the boom of hair-loss products that flooded the market and the dangers of vanity.
Finally, the movie finishes with “The Eye”, starring Mark Hamill (Star Wars), model Twiggy, and famous B-movie director Roger Corman. In this segment, Hamill plays a minor league baseball player that is starting to heat up and is hoping to get a call soon to join the major leagues. But he loses one of his eyes in a car accident and his career seems over. Then a doctor tells him of an eye transplant surgery that he had been working on and the ball player wants to do it to attempt to save his career. But after the new eye starts to give him disturbing visions, he confronts the doctor and finds out that the eye came from a notorious serial killer recently killed on death row. And before he knows it, the killer’s vision becomes his own and his wife has to fight him off or be his victim.
After the third segment ends, the Coroner returns one final time and entertains the audience a last time before the credits roll. Body Bags is not nearly a classic, but it is an enjoyable fright flick to watch when there isn’t much else to do. It is very reminiscent of Creepshow if you are a fan of that anthology movie. Carpenter and Hooper both do a good job with a movie that was made for Showtime and probably didn’t have much of a budget. Sure, if you want to see these directors at their best, there are plenty of other films to watch. But if you want something different to watch just to pass the time, give Body Bags a shot.
Daryl Karpinski, Jr.