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, a new hire at an isolated filling station near Haddonfield, IL, where a serial killer has escaped from the insane asylum and is prowling about (and it ain't Michael). Anne must outwit the lunatic to make it to the end of the night shift.
"Hair" centers around a balding, middle-aged man who decides to undergo treatment in order to keep his locks, with gruesome results.
The final segment, "Eye", is about Brent Matthews (Mark Hamill), a baseball player who loses his right eye in a car accident and gets a replacement that used to belong to a maniac.
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.
- 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, its 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 while wormlike parasites burrow underneath his skin. It turns out to be part of an alien invasion plot to find new human hosts and brainfood 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.
- 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.
- Creator Cameo: Besides Carpenter, Tobe Hooper also appears in the wraparound.
- Creepy Gas Station Attendant: An escaped mental patient from "The Gas Station" kills a gas station owner, assumes his identity, and begins murdering 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 "The 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 ones.
- I Drank What?: The Coroner downs a few glasses of the lethal chemical formaldehyde to set the mood.
- 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.
- 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.
- Serial Killer: Theres one on the loose in 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.
- 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 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.
- Wham Line:
Dr. Lock: You earthlings and your vanity! You are so predictably easy.
- From "Hair", the twist becomes clear with this line:
- 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)