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Worth A Look: 37.5%
Pretty Bad: 0%
Total Crap: 0%

2 reviews, 4 user ratings

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Body Bags
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by Jack Sommersby

"'Give me a big stab wound to poke at and then I'm happy.'"
3 stars

Up for some classic horror? Sorry, this ain't it but is a pretty decent appetizer.

Gosh knows the made-for-Showtime horror anthology Body Bags is far from breathtaking stuff, but for those hungering even for some semi-enjoyable stuff of this genre it�s perfectly passable. Maestro filmmaker John Carpenter is our guide: He amusingly plays a whacked-out morgue attendant who drinks Formaldehyde like it were a martini and selects a corpse and tells of the back story behind it. Carpenter himself directs the first two segments, "The Gas Station" and "Hair"," with Tobe Hooper picking up the last one, "Eye."

The first segment involves a college student working her first night on the third-shift at an isolated gas station in Haddonfield (the same setting of Carpenter's classic Halloween) while the citizenry are on edge due to a killing spree of a fiend nicknamed The Slasher. Soon, the student is being terrorized by him, who's eventually and enjoyably dispatched after more than a few red herrings and anti-climaxes. Purely standard fare, to be sure, but in a comedy-chiller sort of way it's devilishly enjoyable. Carpenter leaves no cliche unturned yet manages to keep things going with some valid tension, making especially good use of a set of keys to an office door that automatically locks upon closing. Also worth noting is Alex Datcher's appealing performance as the heroine -- she's both headstrong and sexy whenever the occasion arises.

Next up is the best segment, where a miserable baby boomer is obsessed with his thinning hair. He has a more-than-understanding attractive lover who doesn't care (she thinks it makes him look "distinguished") yet after fruitlessly trying some high-priced bogus remedies like lamb fetus, he goes to see a supposed wunderkind hair restorer who promises miracles in his TV commercial. The next morning he does in fact awake to more and fuller hair, which gives him oodles more confidence and a renewed sex drive with his woman. Oddly, though, his hair is growing at an alarming rate of six inches a day; and what he quickly discovers is that something not of this planet is behind it. Touchingly communicating the misery of fallen vanity, Stacey Keach is superb; and David Warner is appropriately nutty as his out-there nemesis. Carpenter takes a more relaxed approach this time around and scores points by eliciting humor quite modestly, and he doesn't glide over the human element -- it's probably his most emotionally-sound piece of work since Starman. (It must also be said that it heavily borrows from "The Lonesome Death of Jody Verrill" segment in the brilliant Creepshow and the "Quitters, Inc." one in the fine Cat's Eye, both scripted by Stephen King.)

Finally, there's the tale of an up-and-coming minor-league ballplayer who loses an eye in a car crash and has it replaced by a donor eye in a never-tried experimental operation. All goes well for a while until he starts experiencing terrifying visions of murder, which, he learns, is due to the eye having come from a psychopath on Death Row. Soon enough, he's a considerable danger to his devoted wife. Mark Hamill, usually an acquired taste, is pitch-perfect in the lead, bravely throwing himself into the pathos and nerve-jangling aspects of the role. But, alas, the premise is myopically developed and the direction quite slack -- you seem to be on the verge of being satisfied just to be considerably brought up short, with a weak ending sealing the story's fate. (This segment also borrows -- this time from the dandy Body Parts, where a transplanted arm was the culprit there.)

All in all, Body Bags is definitely preferable to Michael Gornick's odious Creepshow 2 and Joseph Sargent's lame Nightmares, with a prevailing aura of overall good-natured goofiness that should put a smile on the face of the viewer who appropriately sets their sights somewhere in the undemanding middle. Besides, how can you resist something where Carpenter remarks to the Hamill corpse that even though he's missing an eye, he could always work as an umpire?

Now out-of-print on DVD, even seeking out the VHS is worth it being that the movie was shot TV-safe at 1.33:1.

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originally posted: 08/15/09 02:31:17
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User Comments

6/03/04 Angel Mixed quality, gruesome in places. Hamill & Twiggy are great together. 3 stars
4/11/04 American Slasher Goddess Middle of the road for Carpenter, and entertaining. 3 stars
1/04/03 Jack Sommersby Good, dumb fun. 3 stars
6/19/02 Charles Tatum Carpenter scores in front of, and behind, the camera 5 stars
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  02-Aug-1993 (R)



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