One of the genres where horror thrives is the Anthology film, and by “thrives” I mean that pretty much the only anthology films being made these days are horror films. Often, they take the framing narrative from EC Comics and it’s like – horror stories book-ended with a narrative by a ghoulish presenter of some form or another – you know, the classic Tales From the Crypt formula. Well, when HBO launched their Tales From The Crypt anthology TV series and films, Showtime filmed a pilot for their own, to be titled Body Bags. They didn’t decide to go forward, but did take the three filmed stories and turned them into their own anthology film.
Body Bags is the brainchild of probably two of the best horror directors of the ’80s and ’90s – John Carpenter and Tobe Hooper, with Carpenter directing the first two segments, and Hooper directing the third. Thus, it seems appropriate that Carpenter, in the persona of The Coroner, serves as our Horror Host (with Hooper having a small role in the film’s conclusion). The Coroner presents each story by finding the remains of a character from each short’s narrative in a body bag in the morgue, and (after some gruesome puns) proceeds to the tale.
The first segment, The Gas Station is basically a conventional slasher film, though one that leans a little more Giallo than regular slasher films. The short follows Anne, a new hire working the late shift at a gas station near Haddonfield, Ill, when a murderer on the loose shows up. That said, the killer in this short is more mundane than Jason or The Shape. Yes, he takes a beating over the course of the short, but he doesn’t have the supernatural resilience that those characters have, which actually makes for a story that fits better into the runtime. Additionally, the POV of the story, unlike most slashers, stays strictly to Anne. We don’t see any of the other kills, happen, just the aftermath, which makes it a much more grounded story as well.
Hair, the second segment, is a conventional Tales From The Crypt style pseudo-morality story. Guy with thinning hair succumbs to sin of vanity, goes to get hair implants, and body-horror ensues. It’s a little rough, but it’s fine. What makes this works best is the performances by Stacey Keach as the guy going to get hair implants and David Warner as the physician, along with the makeup as Keach’s character goes through his various transformations before the story’s conclusion.
The final story, Eye comes from Tobe Hooper. This one is actually the more problematic of the three as well. The premise is that Mark Hamill plays Brent Matthews, an aspiring baseball player in the minor leagues, who on the cusp of being called up to the majors gets in a car accident that costs him his eye. He receives an eye transplant, but it’s from a murderer, and causes him to have terrifying hallucinations and murderous urges, which endangers the life of his wife.
The acting performances in Eye are great, with Hamill playing both aspects of Matthews incredibly well, including Matthews progressively becoming more upset as his hallucinations endanger his family, and Twiggy, who plays Matthews’ wife, does a solid job in the role. However, the whole thing of “organ transplant recipient gets murderous urges from the donor” and similar concepts are kinda ableist.
In all, I enjoyed the movie, and wouldn’t have minded if it had gotten a full series order, was what we got was effectively a good solid few episodes.
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