Friday, October 7, 2011

31 Nights of Terror #5 - Body Bags (1993)

Body Bags (1993)

Director: John Carpenter (2 segments), Tobe Hooper (1 segment)
Starring: John Carpenter, Robert Carradine, Stacey Keach, Mark Hamill

Format: VHS (Home Cinema Group)

- I had this one on my list to watch for this marathon, but had to bump it up to today after learning that actor Charles Napier had died. He features in one of the segments in this anthology.
- I've been wanting to see this for years. All I know is it's an anthology, was made for TV and is meant to have all sorts of horror movie cameos in it.
- So instead of The Cryptkeeper we get John Carpenter himself as The Coroner. Nice touch.
- Another nice touch: The first segment is set in Haddonfield.
- Alright, let's go horror actor/director spotting!
- Spotted in segment 1, The Gas Station: Directors Wes Craven and Sam Raimi, David Naughton (American Werewolf in London).
- Decapitated head humor, always funny.
- Segment 2 is void of horror guy cameos, but it does feature 80s singers Sheena Easton and Deborah Harry.
- Stacey Keach in a long hair wig is just creepy. Like seeing Fabio as an old man.
- Segment 3, there's Charles Napier, playing a baseball coach. RIP Charles.
- Mark Hamill and Twiggy as a married couple. Mr and Mrs Has Been!
- Roger Corman as a doctor. Nice! Ha, and his acting is terrible, exactly what you'd expect from one of his own low-budget movies.
- And Corman's doctor colleague is played by former b-movie leading man John Agar (Tarantula, Attack of the Puppet People etc).
- Hamill's actually pretty good in this.
- And the final cameo comes in the wrap-around conclusion, as director Tobe Hooper plays a morgue worker alongside Tom Arnold.

Overall thoughts:
I've read that this anthology was intended as a pilot for a TV series that didn't get picked up. I'm not sure why it didn't get picked up, because it's as good as most horror/scifi anthology TV series of the past 30 years. And no, that's not a compliment. Like its peers, Body Bags suffers from the restraints of TV censorship (sparse blood and guts) and weak source material.
The middle story, Hair, is the least conventional of the three, but is also the weakest. The opening story has good atmosphere, music and camerawork, the hallmarks of John Carpenter's career, while the third one, directed by Tobe Hooper, is from the predictable transplanted-body-part-is-evil line, and is only saved by a good acting performance by former Luke Skywalker Mark Hamill. The best stuff comes in the wrap-around, which is full of dark humour and a fun performance by Carpenter himself.
Final verdict? Not a complete waste of time but if you've seen most horror anthologies you know what to expect. If nothing else horror fans will have fun trying to spot all the director cameos.

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