Thursday, August 27, 2020


Film: Body Bags
Format: Streaming video from Tubi TV on the new internet machine.

Ah, the anthology film, that most horror-centric of subgenres that isn’t quite exclusive to the genre. After all, there have been comedy anthology films and a Western anthology or two, but nothing screams low-budget horror movie like a bunch of unrelated short films loosely connected by a framing story. That’s exactly what we’

re getting with Body Bags, made for television, albeit it made for Showtime.

The word is, evidently, that Showtime wanted a serial to compete with Tales from the Crypt. Body Bags was that attempt, and it was scuttled before it really got started. The three filmed segments were put together with a cobbled framing story, and this was the result. There’s a great deal in Body Bags that is a lot of fun and works really well. The first is that it is absolutely loaded with cameos. The second is that the shorts here aren’t five or even 15 minutes long. They’re all closer to half an hour, giving them a good amount of room to really tell the story without diving head-first into jump scares and gore.

What this means is that there are only three stories in Body Bags in addition to the framing story. That framing story features a morgue attendant (John Carpenter himself) looking at the various bodies in the morgue, telling some of the stories that are the reasons the bodies have come in. John Carpenter has always been fairly cadaverous looking, so he’s a dandy choice for the Crypt Keeper-like host.

The first story involves a night worker at a gas station. Harkening back to Halloween, Carpenter sets this story around Haddonfield, IL. We learn that an inmate has broken out of the nearby mental hospital and is almost certainly going to begin killing once again. This is the first night on the job for our heroine clerk (Alex Datcher), who confronts a series of strange and suspicious customers. Cameos in this sequence include horror directors Wes Craven and Sam Raimi along with David Naughton, George “Buck” Flowers, Peter Jason, and Robert Carradine.

The second story features Stacy Keach as a man who feels less than manly because he is losing his hair. He goes to see a hair restoration specialist (David Warner), despite the fact that his girlfriend (Sheena Easton!) says she doesn’t really care about his thinning hair. He gets plenty of hair, but it may be more than he bargains for. This short also feathers Debbie Harry as the doctor’s nurse.

The third and final story sees baseball player Brent Matthews (Mark Hamill) lose an eye in an accident. An experimental surgery performed by Dr. Lang (John Agar) works. Brent is able to see, but he also begins having a series of disturbing visions of dead and dismembered women. Other cameos include Roger Corman as another doctor and Twiggy as Brent’s wife as well as Charles Napier as Brent’s manager.

The shorts are decent, if not great. The third segment could probably be extended into something like a feature length film. The other two shorts go about as far as they can in the time they have. The middle story, Hair, in particular feels exactly like a Tales from the Crypt episode. In fact, all three of them to do to some extent, but that’s the one that feels the most cheese-filled and in many ways the “safest” of the three. The first, Gas Station, is probably the closest to being filmed like an actual movie—it plays a great deal like one of Carpenter’s slashers.

Body Bags is billed as a comedy, but it’s really not that funny. The third story (Eye) is actually quite gruesome in places. The interstitial segments are absolutely played for humor, and the second story does go for something that feels like camp, or like it belonged in one of the variations of Creepshow.

Body Bags isn’t a great movie. It may not even be a good movie, but it is a fun movie through and through. Imagine someone putting together a show like this that had a multiple season run. Clearly, based only the promise and the name, Body Bags was able to draw some decent talent to have fun in the movies. That’s laudable. No one is trying to save the world here. No one is seeking to change hearts and minds. It’s just good, mildly nasty fun, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

Why to watch Body Bags: The stories are given enough room to breathe.
Why not to watch: It feels off tonally in terms of consistency between stories.


  1. I saw this a few years ago and still have it in my hard drive as I thought it was a fine film. Carpenter and Hooper working together on a project. Shame it didn't get picked up to be a TV series. The 90s was a tough period for those 2 as Carpenter had one great film in that decade in In the Mouth of Madness along with a gem in Vampires.

    1. It has the same feel as something like Tales from the Crypt. When you know that's what they were originally going for, it's easy to settle in and enjoy what's to come. The fact that there almost everyone involved is someone you've seen before just adds to the fun.

      If memory serves, Carpenter's remake of Village of the Damned is from the '90s as well. I haven't seen it, but I've heard it's at least competent.

    2. I actually didn't like that one at all. I thought it was the worst thing John Carpenter has done as it didn't have much suspense and I was annoyed as fuck by the performances of the kids in that film.

    3. I'll watch it someday, I suppose. I have a friend who prefers it to the original, but he also likes Repo! and Scott Pilgrim, so there's that.

  2. What a contrast with the previous anthology!

    (Oh, and I've taken your recommendation to put "The Seventh Seal" in my queue. Thanks for that. I think I've actually seen bits and pieces of the movie, but I know I've never watched it all the way through.)

    1. The biggest issue I have with anthologies is that they're not given enough room to really tell a real story. Since these don't try to force the story into 10 minutes, they work much like an old episode of The Twilight Zone did.

      The extreme version of this is a film like The ABCs of Death, which crams 26 short films into just over two hours. The films run about five minutes each, and while it's possible to do something impressive or interesting in that time, it's pretty rare, and just on average, most of those 26 shorts are going to be not worth the time.