Body Bags (1993)
You would think due to my borderline obsession with John Carpenter's 1978 indie sensation, Halloween, that I would be very familiar with the directors catalogue of work. However, this is something I shamefully cannot say I have a broad knowledge of. I could probably count on one hand the number of Carpenter films I have actually seen. This is something that I'm going to rectify this over the course of the next year or so, but before I do, I figured I would revisit a favorite of mine, starting with non other that his 1993 anthology 'Body Bags'.
This made for TV directorial collaboration between the two horror heavy weights, John Carpenter and Tobe Hooper, is something I have grown up with watching regularly. The first two of the three segements are directed by Carpenter (Unleaded and Hair) and the final segment is directed by Hooper (Baseball Man). Carpenter also finds himself in the acting role as mortician introducing the three segments of the anthology. Although clearly taking inspiration for his character from Michael Keaton's 'Beetlejuice', I really liked how entertaining he was in this role. You can see how much enjoyment he is getting from portraying this character.
'Unleaded' is the first and strongest of the three segements. Taking place in Carpenter's fictional Town of Haddonfield, Illinois, we can immediately recognise this location as the one we see in Halloween. Similarly, a scene in the closing act is significantly reflective of a scene featuring Micheal and Laurie in the closing act in Halloween. I can only assume these were decisions made by Carpenter as fan service. It is great to see the multiple cameos from legends within the horror genre, such as, Wes Craven, Sam Raimi and David Naughton. The direction and use of cinematography is as faultless expected, with everything looking very crisp and clean. The score for this segment alone I found to be exceptionally well done, even by the standards of Carpenter - utilising his signature synth style tone that he developed during 'Halloween 3: Season of the Witch'. If I had to criticise this, I would have to say I found Anne's (played by Alex Datcher) acting to be quite weak, but I guess that's more due to how good everyone else was around her. This is a very solid slasher story that you could imaging sharing around a campfire.
The second segment 'Hair' is slightly more humorous in tone to the previous entry. Even the score sounds more silly in nature, having a jazz influenced melody and feeling like it was ripped directly from an episode of Twin Peaks. Considering the tone and the ridiculousness of the story, the acting is played so seriously throughout. Stacy Keatch, who plays bauldong Richard, is an actor I have been a fan of for years. He exeptional in everything I have seen him in and this here being no different. As a stop motion animation admirer, it was very fun to see the almost 'Jason and the Argonauts' style use of it here. Yet, overall, I found this segment to suffer from annoyingly dated CGI effects and some pacing problems, that are inevitable with a story that feels like what should have been a 5 minute comedy sketch drawn out over 30 minutes. This for me is the weakest of the three.
'Baseball Man' is the third and final segment, this time directed by Tobe Hooper and staring the the brilliant Mark Hamill the lead role. The performace given by Hamill as Brent in this segment is nothing short of outstanding. The battles he faces within himself during his transition are portrayed perfectly, and that is soley down to Hamill's acting capabilites alone. Unfortunately, this only highlights how terrible of an actress Twiggy is here. Not only does she give a very generally unconvincing performance as Brent's wife, but she has an awfully unnatural southern accent to go with it. This final segment is much more on the horror side of things than the previous two stories, featuring some very violent imagery, and the overall story and subject matter being much darker.
I found there to be a definitely noticeable difference in quality when transitioning from Carpenter's first two segements into Hoopers final segment. That's not to say that Hooper is a bad director, it's just he is not quite as clean as Carpenter and some of the chosen camera angles do not feel as natural as Carpenter's. I don't particularly dislike any of the three segments featured in the anthology, but 'Unleaded' is by far the superior entry in terms of quality. The intertwining story arc featuring Carpenter as the mortician was equally just as entertaining, with a nice twist conclusion I did not see coming the first time I watched this. This is a very entertaining watch, full of variety. I watch this anthology regularly and will continue to do so for many years to come. If you haven't seen 'Body Bags', I strongly recommend you do.