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Can We Talk About How Great John Carpenter Was in ‘Body Bags’?

No conversation about great horror anthologies is complete without a mention of Body Bags, which premiered on Showtime on August 8th, 1993. The anthology featured three individual segments, two directed by John Carpenter and one by Tobe Hooper, and what’s interesting about the film is that it actually began its life as a pre-“Masters of Horror” TV series.

In the early ’90s, when “Tales from the Crypt” was kicking ass on HBO, Showtime decided to get in on the fun by launching their own horror anthology series. The plan, like “Tales,” was to tell new horror stories on the network every week, but the plug was pulled after just three episodes were filmed. Those episodes were put together to form Body Bags, a made-for-TV movie.

My personal favorite segment in Body Bags is the John Carpenter-directed ‘The Gas Station,’ which plays out like a Halloween film – it’s even set in Haddonfield, Illinois! The isolated tale centers on a young woman working the late night shift at a gas station; strange customers (including Wes Craven in a cameo appearance!) put her on edge, and then bodies start piling up.

Tobe Hooper’s ‘Eye’ is another gem in Body Bags, highlighted by Mark Hamill’s wonderfully insane performance as a baseball player who loses his eye and has it surgically replaced by the eye of a sadistic serial killer. The weak link of the anthology, if there must be one, is Carpenter’s ‘Hair,’ a sci-fi story about sentient hair follicles that lets Stacy Keach have a whole lot of fun.

But the best thing about Body Bags, actually, isn’t even one of the three segments found within it. No, the best thing about Body Bags, rare for an anthology film, is the wraparound.

In a stroke of pure genius, John Carpenter cast himself as the host of Body Bags, playing an undead coroner whose adventures through the county morgue serve to introduce each of the three stories. Carpenter’s nameless coroner is basically Showtime’s take on the Crypt Keeper; a friend of mine once described the character as “white trash Beetlejuice,” which is pretty perfect.

Cracking wise and drinking formaldehyde, the coroner walks through the morgue looking for the most mutilated bodies he can find, and the stories then tell of how those people ended up there. It’s a pretty brilliant framework for a horror anthology, and Carpenter absolutely steals the show despite his limited screen-time; it’s just so much fun watching him have so much fun.

Carpenter noted on the commentary track for The Fog, a film he has a role in, that he stopped casting himself in his movies because he realized how bad of an actor he was. But watching Body Bags, it’s hard not to wish, at the very least, for more of Carpenter in that particular role. He totally nailed it, bringing to the screen one of my all-time favorite horror hosts.

If only the Body Bags series wasn’t canned. If only.



  • THGrimm

    Totally agree. Body Bags is quite the unspoken gem and Carpenter’s coroner is a real treat.

  • Darkness69

    I agree, Carpenter’s bits are a riot, but “Hair” is perhaps the best of the parts! Both Stacy Keach and David Warner kill it!

  • Rez

    I just watched this again the other day…it’s been a while and it was great. I can’t believe it took me this long to rewatch this…it’s awesome!

  • LivingDeadMan

    “John Randall is in the Bible.”

  • Kaijudude

    Man i haven’t seen that in forever.

  • Matt

    All three parts were excellent all the way around. It’s a real shame they didn’t give the show a chance. Many soon-to-be great shows struggled in their first season. Three episodes is far too few to have pulled the plug. (And, yes, Carpenter’s “Coroner” was awesome!)

  • zombie84_41

    maybe it be made now

    • Chris Genth

      Dude I got my wireless headphones today

      • zombie84_41

        Sweetness. We gotta play soon. I prob be on tomm.

        • Chris Genth


    • Chris Genth

      Hey, got my membership to ps plus and headphones charged. I’m ready to go, saw on your profile the games u had. I forgot I’ve got battlefront too but I’m not a big fan.

      • zombie84_41

        I like it. I don’t play as much any more but its fun. I saw The Belko Experiment it was freakin awesome. Great film, nice to see the writer James Gunn hasn’t lost his touch. Norm directors who got their career start in horror when they go onto direct hollywood flicks they forget where they came from. Gunn got his start in TROMA doing TROMEO AND JULIET, then he did Dawn Of The Dead remake (which he wrote) then he went onto direct and write the really funny movie SLITHER. Then he got his big deal and break in hollywood to direct guardians of the galaxy. Which made me so happy to see a guy who was directing next to nothing films for troma to make such an awesome marvel movie. Now he wrote Belko and he hasn’t lost his touch.

    • Chris Genth

      Dude I was online and saw u playing but I don’t have grand theft so I did join chat

      • zombie84_41

        Ya I saw you man. Ya GTA is another game you gotta pick up too me and my friend are always on that.

        • Chris Genth

          K, I’ll try and pick that up the first one right? Shouldn’t be that much, until then I think the only game we both have is mortal kombat. I always keep an eye on my phone so if u wanna play just send me an email

          • zombie84_41

            Ya its GTA 5 it shouldn’t be two much sometimes they do deal’s in the PS store on the PS4 and you can get it for like 20$ with shark cards thats in game cash. And I norm get off from work at 11:30 and home by 12ish. IDK if you still be up though.

          • Chris Genth

            Ok, grandma theft outo 5? I was also looking at getting doom, I think I saw u had that. Also do u have call of duty. If so which one, my birthday is coming up so next week I’ll be able to get a game. Yeah 12:00 is kinda late for me, I take my vicodin and morphine at 8:00 so by 12:00 I’m out. We’ll figure something out, wanted to chat with ya last night but didn’t want to interrupted your game. So what do u think doom, call of duty, which is better and which one do u have. Trying to get a game so we can play together, right now I just have mortal kombat we can play

          • Chris Genth

            Dude, I couldn’t pass it up i got doom!

  • Eddy Foote

    I love the man with all my heart( strong words I know), but He was meant to direct! His performance felt forced and wooden. I wanted to love his scenes, but I couldn’t! I enjoyed watching Hamill dry hump Twiggy over his performance. Each to their own I suppose.

  • Chris Genth

    The master of horror

  • [1986]Butch

    Carpenter is a beast.
    the man can direct,make music,and act,all of the three in high quality.
    please never die.

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