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Body Bags (1993)

DVD Cover (Republic Pictures)
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5.4
 / 10
7 votes
Genres:
Horror, Horror Anthology, Slasher Film
Directors:
John Carpenter John Carpenter
Tobe Hooper Tobe Hooper
Larry Sulkis Larry Sulkis
Starring:
John Carpenter John Carpenter
Tom Arnold Tom Arnold
Tobe Hooper Tobe Hooper
Robert Carradine Robert Carradine
Alex Datcher Alex Datcher
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Review by Chad
Added: January 25, 2009
Back in the old days, there were two movie channels on TV that mattered: HBO and Showtime (Cinemax was a distant third). Both of these channels presented us with the same basic content, that being a healthy mixture of new release and classic movies, original programming that ranged from "cutting-edge instant classics" to "a complete waste of time", and unfortunately for some, a small dosage of sporting events. One of the aforementioned "cutting-edge instant classics" was HBO's Tales from the Crypt, and as we all know, that particular show was extremely popular for a good chunk of time. Not wanting to be outdone, Showtime decided that they also had to have their own slice of the "bite-sized horror" pie, and thus, the idea of Body Bags was proposed.

Originally intended to be a television series much like the aforementioned Tales from the Crypt, the similarities between the two shows could be seen by a blind man. Mix together gruesome horror with a touch of black humor, throw in a handful of horror celebrities and b-list actors, and have a morbid yet wise-cracking host introduce each of the stories - does that sound familiar to anyone else? The idea of a television series was unfortunately scrapped, but we did get a movie out of the three episodes that were shot.

Before getting into the content, I should point out that horror fans will likely want to skip the official R1 release of this film as it has been cut to shreds for some ungodly reason. The gore has been trimmed down to nothing, entire scenes are removed, and the appearance by Wes Craven in the first story was removed altogether. If you're interested in the film, either pick it up on VHS or invest in one of the many bootlegs.

Hosted by a man known as The Coroner (John Carpenter), the wraparound story for this one is simple. The Coroner walks around the mortuary that he resides in and peeks into the various body bags, and whenever he finds a suitable corpse, he tells us the tale of what happened to the body back when it had some life in it. Watch for cameos by Tom Arnold and Tobe Hooper here, but to say how they come into play would be a spoiler.

The Gas Station (directed by John Carpenter)
The first story revolves around Anne (Alex Datcher), a young lady who has just taken the exciting job of gas station attendant in a town where a serial killer is on the loose. On her first night, she meets coworker Bill (Robert Carradine), and the two quickly get acquainted before Bill heads for home... leaving our heroine all by her lonesome in the dead of night over on the deserted side of town. Can you say "disaster waiting to happen"? A stranger (David Naughton) soon shows up to get some gas, and though he seems a little odd, our leading lady can't help but feel that something is a little off about him. Soon after he leaves, bizarre events begin to occur around the gas station, and it quickly becomes a game of "Who is doing this and when will they finally strike?" Sam Raimi shows up in a blink-and-you'll-miss-it appearance, and if you're watching the uncut version, Wes Craven also shows his face for a few moments.

The first tale on the disc is a by-the-books slasher flick, but that's not necessarily a bad thing when John Carpenter is behind the camera as the man knows a thing or two about slashers (listen for a sly little nod to Haddonfield). This is an enjoyable little number for those of you who enjoy a good piece of slasher sleaze, but be warned: there's nothing terribly original about it and you'll likely guess the identity of the killer long before it's revealed. This is not to say that it's a bad story as there are some legitimately tense moments and some good performances, but it's nothing that hasn't been done before. 7/10, and knock a few points off of that if you're not a fan of old-school slashers.

Hair (directed by John Carpenter)
Coming in next is a bizarre little tale about Richard Coberts (Stacy Keach), a man who is getting up there in years and who is also slowly going bald. His girlfriend Megan (Sheena Easton) isn't too concerned about this, but being a man and all, this discovery is nothing short of disastrous in Richard's eyes. However, all is not lost: he sees an advertisement on TV from a company that claims that they can give you a full head of hair with no wigs, no weaves, and no surgery. Too good to be true? Probably, but our hero decides to give it a shot anyway. He gets his full head of hair as promised, but something isn't quite right about it as he will find out just a little bit too late. Gregory Nicotero gets a cameo and Deborah Harry has a minor role.

When I said that this was a bizarre little tale, I meant it. The story falls somewhere between a lighthearted horror story, a strange sci-fi adventure, and an absurdly silly comedy offering. However, it works, and it works damned well. You have to give the writers credit for coming up with something completely original and doing something fun with it, and even though the story may be a little too silly for some viewers, I thought that it was a pleasant surprise. I wouldn't go so far as to call it a five-star classic, but I wouldn't say that it was merely average either. 8/10.

Eye (directed by Tobe Hooper)
We finish up the disc with a peek into the life of Brent Matthews (Mark Hamill), a minor league baseball player who has plans of moving up to the majors in the near future. He's playing a perfect season, the million-dollar contract is only days away, and his wife Cathy (Twiggy) is pregnant with their first child - things just couldn't be better. Of course, that all changes when he swerves to miss a deer one rainy night, and not only does he crash the car, but a huge shard of glass finds itself embedded in his eye. He survives, but unfortunately for his career, the eye does not. However, there is still hope: Dr. Bregman (Roger Corman) claims that he can transplant a donor's eye into Brent's skull, which will allow him to see again and resume his baseball-playing days. Things take a turn for the worse when the former Luke starts to see the things that the eye's former owner saw, and when you consider that the donor was a serial killer who died in the gas chamber, well... I assume that you can "see" where this is going.

Did you ever wonder why Mark Hamill never got any major roles outside of the Star Wars movies? Watch this story and you'll see exactly why that is the case: the man is a horrible actor. I'm sure that a couple of Lucas fanboys will jump all over my ass for that statement, but it's true. The story itself is a little bland, but it's certainly not horrible - it's sort of like one of those Tales from the Crypt episodes that you'd watch once, give a weak thumbs up to, and then completely forget about. When you mix this type of story with a man who is pulling unintentional laughs every time he opens his mouth and utters something in that horrific Southern accent, you've got a recipe for disaster. Twiggy is enjoyable and the storyline isn't horrible, but neither of those are huge selling points. 4/10.

That averages out to just a shade above 6/10, and truthfully, that seems about right for the overall package - maybe 6.5/10 when you factor in the so-bad-it's-good performance by John Carpenter as The Coroner. If you can get past the fact that this was nothing more than a blatant ripoff of Tales and if you don't set your standards too high, I think that most viewers will get some degree of entertainment out of peeking into these Body Bags. I certainly did, but at the same time, it's not something that I'm going to encourage you to rush out and purchase either.
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Chad #1: Chad - added 01/26/2009, 01:42 AM
I also like how the trailer spoils every last plot twist and revelation in the film. Who's the killer? Oh, look it's that guy. What's up with the hair? Lookie here. What happens with the eye? See for yourself. What's the twist with The Coroner? There it is. Even the minor details are revealed, Jesus.

I know trailers are notorious for that sort of thing, but that is just silly.
grain of sand #2: grain of sand - added 04/01/2009, 06:34 AM
I've had this on VHS forever and just watched it again for the first time in awhile. I love this movie. I do take it as a blatant rip, but it's entertaining and fun.

8/10
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