BODY BAGS: Lesser Known Anthology Horror From John Carpenter and Tobe Hooper [Pick Of The Week]


Cinapse Pick of the Week
Exactly what it sounds like, the Pick of the Week column is written up by the Cinapse team on rotation, focusing on films that are past the marketing cycle of either their theatrical release or their home video release. So maybe the pick of the week will be only a couple of years old. Or maybe it’ll be a silent film, cult classic, or forgotten gem. Cinapse is all about thoughtfully advocating film, new and old, and celebrating what we love no matter how marketable that may be. So join us as we share about what we’re discovering, and hopefully you’ll find some new films for your watch list, or some new validation that others out there love what you love too! Engage with us in the comments or on Twitter or Facebook! And now, our Cinapse Pick Of The Week…

With The Witch being a current buzz film, it seems as good a time as any to focus on some horror. Horror films, both on the big screen and in the straight-to-streaming market, have been plentiful in recent years. There have been many hits and misses, but as a horror fan I try to focus on the hits. The recent release of Southbound had me thinking about anthology horror films, specifically.

The anthology horror film is an artform that can often suffer from issues like forcing segments together that don’t mesh or lack of a solid wraparound story. The lengthy ABCs of Death films, for example, have a concept behind them that sounds better than the finished products are because they suffer from extreme incongruity and a lack of any sort of flow. Other films, of course, find ways to make the segments work together to create a strong finished film.

One lesser discussed gem in the anthology horror subgenre is 1993’s Body Bags, a campy made-for-TV film from Showtime Networks and directors John Carpenter and Tobe Hooper. The wrap around features John Carpenter as a creepy coroner who tells the tales of how three of the bodies in the morgue ended up in their body bags (Tobe Hooper also makes an appearance, alongside Tom Arnold as a morgue worker). These three tales are science fiction inspired horror stories starring Robert Carradine (“The Gas Station”), Stacy Keach (“Hair”), and Mark Hamill (“Eye”).

The first segment is the only of the three that is grounded more in reality based horror than science fiction. It focuses on a gas station attendant named Anne (Alex Datcher) at her first night on the job. It follows the standard slasher setup and features Robert “Louis Skolnick” Carradine of Revenge Of The Nerds fame as said slasher. A far cry from the lovable nerd role, in this segment Carradine displays a certain believable madness that makes you wonder if he’s truly just acting.

The middle segment is about a balding man (Stacy Keach) and his gorgeous girlfriend (Sheena Easton). The man is ashamed of what is happening to his hair and undergoes a procedure at a special hair clinic. Overnight his hair becomes thick, lush, and shoulder length. His confidence is restored, but the hair continues to grow and grow until we find out the secret to the rapid hair growth. The viewer is left wondering if vanity and obsession with beauty will become the undoing of not only the balding man, but much of the human race. Only time can tell.

This weird middle segment is followed by another story of body alteration procedures, but not simply in regards to appearance. A minor league baseball player (Mark Hamill) is just hitting his stride, with major league scouts seemingly very interested as he tears the cover off the ball. Then, tragically, he loses an eye. In order to save his chances of playing again, or even seeing again at all, a doctor performs a controversial procedure to give the player a new eye. The eye, however, turns out to be taken from a murderer and the transplant has unexpected side effects. The baseball player begins to see visions and takes on the personality of the eye’s former owner, much to the chagrin of his beautiful wife (Twiggy).

After the final segment wraps, we return to the morgue for one final little twist, as we meet the other morgue workers and find out a bit more about our beloved coroner.

Chock full of campy, cheesy, schlocky fun, Body Bags has gotten a little bit of attention in the past few years, but still remains lesser known among the works of Carpenter and Hooper. You can grab it on Blu-ray from Scream Factory, or watch it free with a few commercials at Shout Factory TV. The cast is great and everything about the film is fun. It’ll be worth your time.

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the author

Justin Harlan mostly watches kids movies because he has two toddlers who hog the Roku remote. When they go to sleep he occasionally has time to watch films that he wants to. His taste is often questionable according to Liam, but he's still good people.