A trilogy of horror tales is presented to us from inside a morgue. The first is about a serial killer, the second about a hair transplant that goes horribly wrong and the third is about a baseball player who is involved in a car accident and has an eye transplant with serious consequences.
This is a mouth-watering prospect for a true horror fan: a collaboration of two of horror’s most infamous directors, John Carpenter and Tobe Hooper (long before the Masters of Horror TV series came into being too). Here we have a trilogy of horror tales, each approached differently. Considering how Carpenter’s films have gradually got worse as the years progress and Hooper may have directed one of the greatest horror films of all time (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre) but has never really followed it up (Poltergeist arguably coming closest), then Body Bags is as entertaining as I could have hoped for and more. Originally penned as the start of a Tales from the Crypt-like TV series, the idea was shelved and the stories were bound together with a wraparound story and presented as a film.
Carpenter himself presents the tales and is possibly the best thing about the whole film. He stars as the wacky morgue corpse who cracks jokes and wisecracks about the other dead bodies before introducing us the individual tales. He’s solid in front of the camera, showing us that he’s as comfortable there as her is in the director’s chair.
The first story, The Gas Station, is a standard slasher piece about a woman who gets a night job at a gas station in an area that has been suffering from a spate of murders. Unfortunately for her, the murderer decides to pay a visit to the gas station on her first shift. Carpenter directs this one and he brings back some of his old magic with several moments directly copied from Halloween – the town is even called Haddonfield. It’s full of the usual standard slasher elements and includes some wacky cameos from the likes of Wes Craven and Sam Raimi. Overall, this story isn’t bad and Carpenter manages to make it more exciting than it should be, complete with another great soundtrack. Some trademark Carpenter moments in here including the lush distant shots and the chilling sight of the apparently-dead killer rising up in the background of the shot ala Michael Myers in Halloween.
The second story, Hair, is the weakest of the three and is played more for laughs. A bald man gets revolutionary hair therapy in a new clinic only to find out that he is being used for something more devious. Stacy Keach stars as the unlucky patient but comes off as a pompous git and actually deserves what happens to him for being so worried about his hair. David Warner looks quite wooden during the faux TV commercials but then improves dramatically in person and gets back to usual reliable self. The ending is quite a surprise and a nice touch though and certainly not how I had envisioned it to end. This segment was also directed by Carpenter and is more throwaway than the others, filled with more black humour and showing the playful side of the director.
The last story, Eye, is directed by Tobe Hooper and stars Mark Hamill as a baseball player who is involved in car accident and loses his eye. All is not lost when he gets an eye transplant but unfortunately for him, it is the eye of a killer and he begins to have strange visions. This story isn’t that bad either, with a transplant plot that has been done quite a few times over the years (J-Horror The Eye for instance and even in one of the Halloween specials of The Simpsons where Homer gets a hair transplant). Hooper still manages to make the material seem original and even though we know what is coming, it’s still interesting to see it all pan out. Mark Hamill shows how capable an actor he is here and it’s a real shame that his career didn’t take off like Harrison Ford’s did after Star Wars. Hair is the bloodiest of all of the stories too, though it’s clear that Hooper runs out of decent material and opts to go for the ‘everything but the kitchen sink’ approach.
Body Bags is just a film made by some horror greats who just wanted to give the audience a good time and enjoy making it in the process. And that it does. Like pretty much every horror anthology film made, there are strong segments and some weak ones. There’s something here for everyone though and a whole host of famous faces crop up in various guises so definitely worth checking out.