Body Bags major failing point is that as a narrator, a la Tales from the Crypts Cryptkeeper, John Carpenter is not cut out to do the whole ghoulishly cackling, bad puns thing. Carpenter has never played in front of the cameras as an actor before and his performance here is campy and rather silly. Moreover, the tongue-in-cheek approach to horror is something that could not be at further remove from Carpenters films, which all play themselves seriously and are not exactly noted for their comedy element.
That said, when Carpenter gets down to the business of directing the first two episodes, he is back on familiar ground. The first story The Gas Station is classic Carpenter. He creates a reasonable degree of tension with heroine Alex Datchers running around, a number of twists and a gory despatch of the psycho at the end. The episode is also accompanied by another of Carpenters fine melodic scores.
The second episode Hair, is also from Carpenter. It has a certain degree of creepiness, especially in scenes like where Stacy Keachs hair starts crawling across the floor of the hairdressing salon; when he wakes up to find the hair growing all over his body, including out of his throat; or where he cuts the hair over the bathroom sink and it squeals and then under a microscope is revealed to resemble a long miniature snake. The creepiness of the episode is undone somewhat by a lame twist ending that reveals the hair is all part of an alien invasion plan, something that has been heavily signposted by the name of the clinic Roswell Hair Laboratories.
For the third episode Eye, Carpenter has handed direction over to Tobe Hooper, one of Carpenters contemporaries, best known as the director of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) and Poltergeist (1982) see below for Tobe Hoopers other films. The difference between Carpenter and Hooper, who had slid a long way down as a director in the 1990s, could not be better demonstrated than by seeing their various segments alongside one another. Even though he is not on top form, Carpenters creepy suspense in the first two episodes is at marked contrast to Tobe Hooper who throws in random crude shock effects bodies rising out of the backyard, a severed arm in the kitchen disposal unit, flashbacks with Mark Hamill in a babys crib, Hamill finding he is making out with a corpse. The segment even lacks Carpenters atmospheric score. The episode emerges as a variant on the oft-filmed The Hands of Orlac (1924) about a possessed transplant limb. The storys denouement is given away well in advance by the heavy-handed Biblical quotes throughout.
John Carpenters films often make references to other genre films and people he has worked with and Body Bags is rich in these. There is reference made in the background to Haddonfield, the fictional location for Halloween. Carpenter also obtains a number of cameos from other genre directors, including Wes Craven, director of A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) and Scream (1996), as a weird drunken customer during The Gas Station episode; while Tobe Hooper, along with comedian Tom Arnold, appear as morgue attendants at the very end of the film; B movie producing legend Roger Corman turns up as a doctor examining Stacy Keach; Stacy Keachs character is named Richard Kobritz, a producer who has worked with both Carpenter and Tobe Hooper; while Sam Raimi, director of The Evil Dead (1982), has his photo listed as Employee of the Month in the background of The Gas Station.
John Carpenters other genre films are: Dark Star (1974); the urban siege film Assault on Precinct 13 (1976); Halloween (1978); the stalker psycho-thriller Someones Watching Me (tv movie, 1978); the ghost story The Fog (1980); the sf action film Escape from New York (1981); the remake of The Thing (1982); the Stephen King killer car adaptation Christine (1983); the alien visitor effort Starman (1984); the Hong Kong-styled martial arts fantasy Big Trouble in Little China (1986); Prince of Darkness (1987), an interesting conceptual blend of quantum physics and religion; the alien takeover film They Live (1988); Memoirs of an Invisible Man (1992); the H.P. Lovecraft homage In the Mouth of Madness (1995); the remake of Village of the Damned (1995); Escape from L.A. (1996); the vampire hunter film Vampires (1998); the sf film Ghosts of Mars (2001); and the haunted asylum film The Ward (2010). Carpenter has also written the screenplays for the psychic thriller Eyes of Laura Mars (1978), Halloween II (1981), the hi-tech thriller Black Moon Rising (1985) and the killer snake tv movie Silent Predators (1999), as well as produced Halloween II, Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982), the time-travel film The Philadelphia Experiment (1984) and Vampires: Los Muertos (2002).
Tobe Hoopers other genre films include The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974), the dull Eaten Alive/Deathtrap (1977), the fine tv adaptation of Stephen Kings Salems Lot (1979), The Funhouse (1981), the Steven Spielberg-produced ghost story Poltergeist (1982), the enjoyable psychic alien vampire film Lifeforce (1985), the remake of Invaders from Mars (1986), The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986), the tv movie Im Dangerous Tonight (1990) about a haunted dress, the pyrokinesis film Spontaneous Combustion (1990), the erotic film Night Terrors (1993), an awful Stephen King adaptation The Mangler (1995), the weird apartment dwellers black comedy The Apartment Complex (1999), Crocodile (2000), the remake of Toolbox Murders (2003), Mortuary (2005) and Djinn (2013), as well as work on various genre tv series.
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