Let’s talk about this forgotten gem of a movie, Body Bags. So what is it exactly? From what I can gather, it was meant to be an anthology horror series made by Showtime in the same vein as Tales from the Crypt. Somewhere along the way, Showtime decided they didn’t want it, so the three episodes they’d already filmed became this movie. At least one of the segments was directed by John Carpenter, another by Tobe Hooper, and the third I just don’t know. And who did what, I also don’t really know. Getting solid information about the production process of this has proven challenging. What I have may not even be accurate, as Wikipedia is asking for citations.
What makes this a gem? I don’t know how to emphasize this without using bold caps: EVERYONE IS IN THIS THING. John Carpenter plays the Cryptkeeper-esque character who stitches the segments together, and he’s clearly having the time of his life and is a joy to watch. Wes Craven shows up as a clearly drunk man hitting on a young woman. Sam Raimi is a dead guy. Roger Corman is a doctor. John Agar is yet another doctor. Debbie Harry is a nurse. Tobe Hooper and Tom Arnold show up as medical examiners. And that’s just the cutsie-wootsie stuff that will have genre fans giggling and pointing at their screen. The segments include acting talent from Robert Caradine, David Naughton, Stacy Keach, David Warner, and Mark Freaking Hamill. Oh, and Twiggy. Even Twiggy is in this!
Very much the kind of movie for movie nerds. Check.
But it is good? I can hear you asking. The first segment, “The Gas Station” is probably the best story the movie tells. It’s slightly by the numbers, following the typical slasher formula, but it’s tense. So tense that by the time we reach a pointless jump scare, I thought my heart was going to come flying out of my ass. Not without its horror merits, obviously. I can recommend it for that half hour of movie alone.
The second segment, “Hair” starring Stacy Keach, is the weakest. That’s the way of these sorts of movies. Sandwich the two stronger stories around the weaker so they have to stay on for the third. It wasn’t a total washout, but mostly it felt like padding until it got to the twist ending. Said twist was very Twilight Zone, so if that sort of thing bugs you, it will here, too. It was also a little on the silly side, so a breather between the more gruesome tales.
The last segment, “Eye” starring Mark Hamill, is somewhere between the first two in quality. It gets a big thumbs up for Hamill’s performance. The man is a chameleon, especially where his voice is concerned, and it’s fun to watch him transform. BUT. You know that horror story we’ve heard a million times about someone getting an organ transplant, and the organ was from a killer, and it turns the nice guy bad? Yeah, that. So done to death. So tired of seeing it. Great Hamill, meh story.
For the anthology lovers among us, it is worth checking out. Even if all you get out of it is one, strong slasher story and John Carpenter being an absolutely beautiful ham for the camera.