What began as a concept for an anthology series was formed to become a pretty solid anthology horror film that has the advantage of director John Carpenter under its wing. Surely, it’s not the best anthology movie ever made. It’s not even in the top ten anthology horror movies ever made, but it promises a decent horror trip with three stories varying in quality and often jarring changes in tone. Director John Carpenter comes out of his shell as a decrepit and demented coroner who brings us in to his morgue to gander at the bodies in his care. Every corpse has a story to tell, and he brings us the tale of three unfortunate souls.
Carpenter’s performance as the demented coroner is humorous and Carpenter really tries to form his own niche as the narrator without cribbing from the Cryptkeeper. The book ends for “Body Bags” are sadly the best part of the anthology, as Carpenter really creates a sentient character with potential to be a horror icon. You also have to enjoy the assorted cameos from horror masters like Wes Craven, Tobe Hooper, and Roger Corman, all of whom relish appearing for an instance to wink at the audience. “The Gas Station” is the best of the trilogy of tales, only by default. It’s the most cohesive story with a less comedic bent and operates like an urban legend. Alex Datcher plays Anne, a gas station operator tasked with the night shift at a road side gas station housed in the middle of a dark and deserted road.
Urged to remain in the booth at all times and to keep it locked, Anne is informed by a fellow attendant that a serial killer has escaped a local asylum and is on the loose. Anne soon grows more and more uneasy as the time passes, and she begins experiencing odd ball customers, as well as anxiety of being alone and far away from immediate help. “The Gas Station” soon escalates in to a fight for survival, as Carpenter adds a surprise twist, and stages some really creepy cat and mouse fodder that will definitely ensure some terror. “Hair” is a forgettable albeit gruesome tale starring Stacey Keach as a middle aged man faced with baldness in the midst of a new relationship. Desperate to maintain his hair, he is given an experimental treatment that promises to bring back his locks.
When it works, bringing him new hair and vitality, he learns that the hair has suddenly taken on a life of its own, and he’s at a loss as to why his follicles have suddenly become his worst enemy. While the ending works as a pretty neat twist, “Hair” plays the black humor too dependently and never quite achieves the momentum of terror and suspense as the first tale. “Eye” is yet another gruesome and somewhat stale story starring Mark Hamil as a baseball player who loses his eye in a car accident. When he volunteer for an eye transplant, he discovers he’s been given the eye of a serial killer. As he begins to realize he’s inheriting the memories of the eye, he also begins to partake in the vicious murders of local women. “Eye” is a solid finisher, but yet another tonal shift in the trilogy that can never seem to figure out if it’s playing the concept for dark comedy or horror. “Body Bags” overall is a glimpse at what a potential series could have been, and it’s pretty wise the show never went forward. As a compilation, it’s only a mediocre horror effort.
The Blu-Ray treatment from Scream Factory is as sharp as ever, providing a wonderful new transfer for fans. Among the extras, there’s “Unzipping Body Bags,” a twenty minute look at the back story of “Body Bags” with cast and crew interviews. John Carpenter speaks about the shoot, and the development, along with his wife Sandy King, who co-produced. There’s the original trailer, and finally, an audio commentary with director John Carpenter, Producer Sandy King, and cast members Stacy Keach and Robert Carradine. The commentaries are recorded separately with Carpenter and Carradine speaking together, while King and Keach voice another portion, and it’s a fairly entertaining collaboration and insight in to the film.