Apparently this started out as Showtime Network’s attempt at making their own Tales from the Crypt series but then at the last minute they pulled the plug on the project. And because they had already shot some of the footage for it, the pilot ended up being turned into a horror anthology TV movie instead. Taking that backstory into account, Body Bags ain’t half bad. It’s not best horror anthology movie ever made, but it gets the job done well enough.
My favorite thing about this movie has to be the fact that the host who introduces all the stories to the viewer is played by none other than John Carpenter himself, in the form of a demented coroner who drinks formaldehyde from a classy martini glass and uses the corpses found at the morgue, puntastically always presented in their dark black body bags, as the source material for the tales that get told. Nothing can ever really top the old Cryptkeeper but Carpenter does make for a really nice runner-up with his hosting talents.
On the menu on this creepy evening are three stories, featuring some tongue in cheek horror and sci-fi. The first tale is called ‘The Gas Station’ and it’s basically a miniature slasher flick, told from the perspective of a young college student who is working the late night shift at a gas station while a serial killer is on the loose in the neighborhood. You can basically guess where it goes from there. From a technical point of view, this was the best story simply because it perfectly captures the creepy tone of a slasher movie and manages to use its limited running time incredibly effectively. The only real minus is that the killer has no time to really develop any type of personality nor does his appearance have anything particularly iconic about it, so he ends up being just a generic lunatic out killing people, but honestly the entire segment is so well done that it is a very minor complaint.
Moving on, ‘The Hair’ is the second story we are shown, and it’s easily the funniest one of the three due to the preposterous and cheesy B-list plot that involves a middle aged man, who is overly concerned about his hair thinning, getting a hair transplant operation that magically makes him look like Fabio’s sexy older cousin with beautiful long, flowing hair. Of course this wouldn’t be a horror anthology if things didn’t go wrong somehow, so as a cruel twist of fate it is ultimately revealed that the transplant hair is actually made out of alien parasites and the cure for baldness was part of a nefarious alien scheme to conquer the world one bald man at a time, using humanity’s vanity against them. No, really. That’s the plot. Stacy Keach, who plays the protagonist in the story, is absolutely marvelous in his leading role. I’ve always liked him as an actor but he really sells the fear of his character going bald beautifully here and once he goes through with the operation and overnight suddenly has shoulder length hair, the sight is just amazing. It’s both completely ridiculous, yet oddly fetching.
The third and final segment, simply titled ‘Eye’ has the unfortunate privilege of being both the most disappointing and the worst one of the bunch despite the involvement of Mark Hamill as the main character. It’s curious, as its premise about a man getting an eye transplant from an executed serial killer and the eye then slowly taking over Hamill’s mind on paper sounds like by far the best one of the bunch, but it’s actually the complete opposite. It’s not even that’s it’s such a cliché that it doesn’t work, it’s more that the movie doesn’t really manage to do anything particularly interesting with the idea. The execution is entirely lacking and the script doesn’t give Hamill much to do, which is frustrating. He just kinda goes looney toons very quickly after some hallucinations and the build up to him nearly killing his pregnant wife does not manage to provide very much entertainment or thrills. You expected getting something in the lines of the Shining in miniature size but instead you got just superfluous fluff where you’re bored to death hal the time.
It’s a shame that Body Bags never made it into an actual TV show. Going by the level of quality found in the movie there was a real promise here for an entertaining, alternative take on a horror anthology show and the competition with Tales from the Crypt might have sparked who knows what kind of gems down the road. As it stands now, it’s a pretty okay as a cheesy horror movie, with the benefit of having some additional value in featuring numerous celebrity cameos, such as Sam Raimi, Wes Craven and Roger Corman, in it.