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Film / Body Bags

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Body Bags is a 1993 horror anthology film made for Showtime and directed by John Carpenter and Tobe Hooper. It stars Carpenter as the Coroner, who brings the viewers three tales centered around the cadavers in his care.

"The Gas Station" is about Anne (Alex Datcher), a college student who is beginning a job at an isolated filling station near Haddonfield, IL. Her supervisor warns her that a serial killer has escaped from the insane asylum and is prowling about (and unfortunately, it ain't Michael). Anne must keep an eye out for the lunatic and make it to the end of the night shift. What she doesn't know however, is that the lunatic is closer to her than she thinks.

"Hair" centers around Richard Coberts (Stacy Keach), a balding, middle-aged man who is extremely insecure and self-conscious about his thinning hairline. As his insecurities begin driving a wedge between himself and his girlfriend, he decides to undergo a "miraculous" treatment in order to give himself new hair. At first, the transplant seems to be a success, with Richard growing a full head of hair overnight. But after a few days, Richard begins feeling sick and fatigued as the hair begins growing longer and longer, even in places where hair doesn't normally grow.


The final segment, "Eye", is about Brent Matthews (Mark Hamill), a professional baseball player who loses his eye in a horrible car accident. Not wanting to end his career, he allows himself to undergo an experimental surgery to have his ruined eye replaced. After a while, Brent begins seeing horrific visions of dead bodies, as well as himself murdering women, with his new eye. He learns that his new eye was donated from John Randle, a maniac who murdered women and violated their bodies who was recently executed, and the disturbing visions are the result of Randle's spirit possessing Brent through his eye to continue his killing spree.


This film provides examples of the following tropes:

  • And I Must Scream: Even though Richard was in no position to, due to wormlike parasites eating his brain, the zoom in shot of his face shows he's doing so on the inside.
  • Autopsy Snack Time: The Coroner is introduced cutting a slab of meat with an electrical saw and preparing to eat it. The real coroners at the end also make sure to get some coffee before starting their autopsy of the fake coroner, who's actually a zombie.
  • Ax-Crazy: The killer in the first segment is an escaped mental patient who slaughters various people because he's either insane or just enjoys murder. Or both.
  • Axe Before Entering: In the "The Gas Station", the killer uses a sledgehammer to smash out the reinforced glass in the cashier booth, and then to knock down the bathroom door after Anne locks herself inside.
  • Badass Bystander: The customer who forgot his credit card in the first segment ends up helping Anne kill the serial killer.
  • Baldness Angst: In the segment "Hair", the main character's fear of losing his hair is what leads the main character to try out an experimental drug that gifts him with a massive mane of hair overnight. Then it keeps growing, and he realizes that the "hair" is actually a living creature.
  • Big Damn Heroes: In "The Gas Station", the customer Pete returns at the end to help Anne beat the killer when he remembered he left his credit card behind. Despite him being quickly overtaken by the maniac, it's this intervention that allows Anne to set her death trap for him.
  • Body Horror: In "Hair", Richard gets a mystery treatment that results in him growing shoulder-length hair within a day's time. The hair then just keeps growing and eventually covers his face as well as other places where hair doesn't usually grow... all while wormlike parasites burrow underneath his skin. It turns out to be part of an alien invasion plot to find new human hosts and brain food to dine on.
  • Brain Food: The hair growth experiment in "Hair" is actually part of a scheme by wormlike alien invaders to take over human hosts and eat their brains.
  • Career-Ending Injury: In "Eye", Brent is a baseball relief hitter who loses his right eye in a car accident. With no depth perception, he can no longer bat at a professional level. He agrees to the experimental eye transplant surgery in an attempt to save his career.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: In "The Gas Station", one of the early customers is one of the few people who's nice to the female clerk but forgets his credit card even though she runs after him. After he remembers this, he returns at the end to save her from an attack by a psychopathic killer.
  • Cold Turkeys Are Everywhere: When Richard is obsessing over his hair loss in "Hair", he leaves the hairdresser and is immediately confronted by women with long beautiful hair, and then men with long beautiful hair; one of whom is walking an Afghan hound with long beautiful hair. When he gets home, his television is showing ads for shampoo, and one for fertilizer showing rapidly sprouting grass.
  • Creator Cameo: Besides John Carpenter as the Coroner, Tobe Hooper also appears in the wraparound as one of the morgue workers who shows up at the end of the film.
  • Creepy Gas Station Attendant: An escaped mental patient from "The Gas Station" kills a gas station owner, assumes his identity and then moves on to the customers.
  • Creepy Mortician: John Carpenter portrays the Coroner, a wacky character who has a twisted fascination with the corpses he gets every night and hosts the framing segments. Among other things he holds conversations with the dead people around him and even plays around with some of them. Subverted at the end when he turns out to be another corpse come to life when the real coroners appear.
  • Dead All Along: The Coroner is revealed to be one of the corpses being stored at the morgue who had apparently come to life to mess around with the corpses and entertain the audience with his stories of how the bodies died while the real coroners were away.
  • Deadly Nosebleed: The serial killer from "The Gas Station" gets slammed in the face by Anne. When he gets up again, his bleeding nose indicates how severe that blow was and he falls down again. He eventually gets up once more.
  • Dead Person Impersonation: In "The Gas Station", Anne's co-worker Bill isn't the real Bill, as she finds out. He's actually the escaped serial killer mentioned on the radio earlier on and has been impersonating the original gas station owner.
  • Deconstructed Trope: Though the killer in "The Gas Station" is a persistent threat, he's still just a regular person, so he can't easily shake off injuries like standard slasher movie villains. After getting hit in the face with a chair, he falls over twice in succession and struggles to regain his bearings.
  • Dodgy Toupee: Richard in "Hair" gets a really bad toupee to cover up his hair loss that his girlfriend and his hair dresser both dismiss as just making him look insecure.
  • Driven to Suicide: Brent from "Eye" is unable to take the hallucinations any longer and stabs himself in his transplanted eye.
  • Drop the Hammer: In "The Gas Station", the killer gains access to the locked gas station booth by bashing the front window in with a sledge hammer.
  • Evil Gloating: The parasitic aliens at the end of "Hair" love to gloat to Richard that he fell right into their trap due to his vanity and take him to another room to spend his last conscious moments before he becomes fully braindead.
  • Eye Scream:
    • With a segment called "Eye", what would you expect? The protagonist loses his eye twice through impalement.
    • "Hair" also includes wormlike parasites emerging from a human eye.
  • Fatal Flaw: Discussed in "Hair". If it wasn't for Richard's vanity to want a full head of hair at any cost, the parasitic aliens would never have been able to use him as another host and eat his brain.
  • Foreshadowing: In "Hair", when Richard and the Doctor first talk, the Doctor is rather condescending and gives Richard a slightly mocking smile. Initially, it seems it's just his being a bit pompous and stuck up, but it actually reflects the contempt he holds Richard in, as becomes evident at the end of the story.
    • The Doctor's company is called the Roswell surgery. That's a clear reference to the infamous alleged alien landing - and the Doctor himself is an alien too.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: If you're attentive enough, you can guess who's behind the whole thing in "Gas Station" at the very beginning. The camera lingers for a second over real Bill's picture, and you can see it's not the guy Anne had talked to earlier. However, they look similar enough to miss this on the first viewing.
  • Freudian Excuse: Brent in "Eye" finds out through the dead serial killer John Randall's visions that he was horribly abused by his mother, such as putting out cigarettes in his face when he was still in his crib.
  • Gag Boobs: Checking trough the body cabinets (or as he likes to call them, "necrophile cabinets"), The Coroner comes across a body of a woman with enormous fake breasts.
    The Coroner: These ought to be recycled.
  • Gas Station of Doom: There's one segment appropriately named "The Gas Station" that played out like a Slasher Movie. A new attendant working the night shift is stalked by a lone killer as she tries to fight him off.
  • Hallucinations: Brent's new eye gives him very grisly hallucinations where he re-lives the experiences of John Randall, the donor source of his new eye.
  • Horror Host: The Coroner, given his nature as a creepy individual who introduces and discusses the stories in the film's Framing Device.
  • A Love to Dismember: The Coroner grabs two dismembered heads and makes them kiss each other. This gets even weirder when it turns out that he's actually a zombie himself.
  • Implacable Man: The killer in "The Gas Station" suffers a lot of abuse by the heroine, but keeps getting up each time to pursue her once again until he finally gets crushed underneath a car.
  • Large Ham: John Carpenter as the Coroner is chewing the scenery during his segments with a very goofy character who constantly makes death-related puns and treats the corpses he gets in as if they were living people.
  • Machete Mayhem: The killer in "The Gas Station" uses a machete as his main weapon to kill his victims.
  • Magical Eye: In the "Eye", Brent, a star baseball player, gets a new right eye after he loses his original one in a car accident. He subsequently becomes plagued by nightmarish visions of murder and rape and finds out that it belonged to an executed serial killer named John Randall, whose personality is starting to overtake his own.
  • Mood Whiplash: Lurches between suspense, light-hearted horror-comedy, and supernatural shock tactics, which is exacerbated by the goofy wraparound segments.
  • Mummies at the Dinner Table: The Coroner props up a mutilated corpse to give him psychological advice. Of course, he's a lost cause.
  • Never Trust a Hair Tonic: In the "Hair" segment, a balding guy goes to a new clinic to get an experimental hair transplant. It works, but then his hair keeps growing all over his body. At one point he even has to pull a new hair out of his tooth. It turns out the "hair" are really spindly aliens who want to eat his brain.
  • Nightmare Fetishist: The Coroner is fond of discussing every way a person can die, with the exception of natural causes.
  • Oh, Crap!: When the real coroners start doing an autopsy on the Coroner, the Coroner can be seen mouthing "Oh, no" when one of them asks for a head saw and begins to cut open the Coroner's skull.
  • Peekaboo Corpse: In "The Gas Station", Anne is startled when she runs into the bathroom, yanks open one of the lockers, and dead Bill's corpse falls out.
  • Prehensile Hair: "Hair" features Stacy Keach's character receiving a hair transplant operation, which turns out to be an alien parasite that bites him after he plucks a hair from his tooth! The aliens eat up his brains.
  • Pungeon Master: John Carpenter's character, the Coroner, makes several death-related puns every other minute.
  • Puppeteer Parasite: The second segment's eponymous "hair" are actually tiny aliens who need human brains as a food source to survive. They trick vain people into getting their "hair treatment" to acquire new hosts.
  • Rapid Hair Growth: The "Hair" segment features a balding middle-aged guy who receives a mystery treatment from a strange health care society. He grows a giant mane of hair overnight, but the hair just keeps growing all over his body, including on his teeth. It turns out that the "hairs" are actually parasitic wormlike aliens who need human brains for food and it's already too late for him.
  • Red Herring: Every customer at the gas station in the first segment is implied to have nefarious designs on the heroine, but they all turn out to be unrelated to the real killer.
  • Rewatch Bonus: First time watching Hair, the Doctor's pompous and slightly mocking behaviour towards Richard at his consultation just makes him appear a bit stuck up. Of course, once you have seen the ending once, when rewatching the film, it's striking just how contemptuous the doctor is of Richard, for reasons that become all too apparent by the end of the film.
  • Serial Killer: There’s a psychotic killer on the loose in “The Gas Station”.
  • Shear Menace: In "The Eye", Brent tries to murder his own wife with a garden shear when the late John Randall's visions turn him into a murderous lunatic as well.
  • Shout-Out: The killer in "The Gas Station" segment is reported to also have escaped from a mental institution in Haddonfield, Illinois.
  • Slashed Throat: The fate of one of the customers and the real manager in "The Gas Station" is a slit throat.
  • Slasher Movie: The segment "The Gas Station" plays out like a typical slasher with a mystery killer murdering various people and menacing the heroine.
  • Space Whale Aesop: From the segment "Hair". Being so insecure about hair loss that one is willing to try out mystery experiments will result in becoming a host for parasitic wormlike aliens who will snack on your brain.
  • Sudden Downer Ending: Granted a potentially awful ending should not be much of a surprise in a horror story but when it occurs to the most light-hearted, humorous and campy of the stories by far, "Hair" it stands out. To stretch this point even further it even has a comedic tune playing over its entirety and there isn't any build-up or threat in the ambience very much unlike the other too. And yet is the one with the worst of the three endings where The Bad Guy Wins with the previously happy theme echoing over the sight of the main character losing any claim he may have held to, over his own body and brain and offering us an uncalled amount of Soundtrack Dissonance.
  • Title Drop: The Coroner introduces all the stories connected to the new corpses that come in.
    The Coroner: Body Bags! See, when it's suicide or murder or an accident they put them in these bags.
  • Tomato Surprise: John Carpenter's character the Coroner initially seems to be just an intensely weird mortician. There are several hints dropped throughout his segments, including his consumption of the lethal chemical formaldehyde and his lifeless, pale skin, but it isn't revealed until the very end that he's actually another corpse who assumed the role of the real morticians.
  • Wham Shot:
    • If the Coroner removing his scrubs, revealing his wound at the end doesn't count, then him hopping up onto a gurney, revealing his toe tag certainly does.
    • "The Gas Station": As Anne attempts to call for help, viewers see what's on the other end: a smashed picture frame and a bloody machete moving into view. It's a picture of the real Bill, and the camera soon pans up to reveal a Dead Person Impersonation was pulled.
  • Wham Line:
    • From "Hair", the twist becomes clear with this line:
      Dr. Lock: You earthlings and your vanity! You are so predictably easy.
    • The true nature of the Coroner becomes apparent at the end, when he hears two people approaching:
      Coroner: Uh-oh! Better get moving! (removes his scrubs, revealing a bloody wound on his side)