The TSL’s Grindhouse: Body Bags (dir by John Carpenter and Tobe Hooper)


An odd but mildly likable film, that’s the best description of Body Bags.

Originally, Body Bags wasn’t even meant to be a film.  Instead, in 1993, Showtime wanted to do a horror anthology show, one that would mix comedy and chills in the style of HBO’s Tales From The Crypt.  Three episodes were filmed.  Two were directed by John Carpenter.  The other was directed by Tobe Hooper.  Robert Carradine, Stacy Keach, and Mark Hamill all agreed to appear on the show.  That’s an impressive collection of talent but, for whatever reason, Showtime decided not to pursue Body Bags as a series.  So the three episodes were strung together in an anthology film.  Linking the stories was a warp-around segment where Carpenter played a coroner and Tobe Hooper and Tom Arnold played morgue attendants!

Now, it must be said that John Carpenter probably made the right decision when he decided to become a director instead of an actor.  That said, what Carpenter lacked in acting technique, he made up for with unbridled enthusiasm.  Carpenter appears to be having a blast playing an old style horror host.  Who can blame him?  In fact, I would say one the most appealing things about John Carpenter as a personality is that he always seems to be truly enjoying himself, regardless of all the crap that he’s had to put up with in Hollywood.

As for the segments …. well, they’re uneven.  That’s not really a shock. Part of the problem is that, because they weren’t originally envisioned as all airing together, a lot of ideas and story points are repeated from segment to segment.  The first segment is about a serial killer.  The second segment is about a transplant.  The third segment is about both a transplant and a serial killer.  It gets a bit repetitive.

Carpenter directed the first two segments, The Gas Station and HairThe Gas Station is a bit too simple for its own good.  Robert Carradine is a serial killer who harasses a woman at a gas station.  That’s pretty much it.  Carradine gives a good performance ad Halloween fans will get a laugh out of a reference to Haddonfield but there’s not much else going on.  Hair is a bit better.  Stacy Keach plays a businessman who gets a hair transplant, just to discover that the hair is extraterrestrial in origin.  Hair is clever and playful, like an above average episode of The Twilight Zone.  Keach plays his role with the right mix of comedic outrage and genuine horror.

The third segment is called Eyes and it was directed by Tobe Hooper.  Mark Hamill plays a baseball player who is losing his eyesight as the result of a car accident.  He gets an eye transplant.  At first, everything seems fine but soon, he’s having visions of himself murdering people!  It turns out that the eye once belonged to a serial killer.  You can guess where this is going but Mark Hamill really throws himself into the role and Tobe Hooper’s direction is appropriately intense.

Body Bags is a pretty minor entry in the filmographies of two great directors but, at the same time, it’s enjoyable in its own silly way.  There’s a likable goofiness to John Carpenter’s wrap-around segment and it lets us know that we shouldn’t take any of this too seriously.  Watch it for your own amusement.

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