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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. The operation is a success & everything is fine...until Brent starts having disturbing visions...

This film provides examples of the following tropes:

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     Framing segments 
  • 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 get some coffee before starting their autopsy of the fake coroner, who's actually a zombie.
  • Creator Cameo: John Carpenter plays the Coroner, and Tobe Hooper appears as one of the morgue workers who show up at the end of the film.
  • Creepy Mortician: John Carpenter portrays the Coroner, a wacky character who hosts the framing segments, and has a twisted fascination with the corpses he gets every night. 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 a John Doe 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 other corpses and entertain the audience with his stories of how the bodies died while the real coroners were away.
  • 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 severed heads and makes them kiss each other. This gets even weirder when it turns out that he's actually a corpse himself.
  • Large Ham: Carpenter chews the scenery constantly as the Coroner, a very goofy character who makes death-related puns and treats the corpses he gets in as if they were living people.
  • Mood Whiplash: The film already lurches between suspense, light-hearted horror-comedy, and supernatural shock tactics, which are 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.
  • 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 fake Coroner, he can be seen mouthing "Oh no!" when one of them asks for a saw and begins to cut open his skull.
  • Pungeon Master: The Coroner makes several death-related puns every other minute.
  • Title Drop: The Coroner introduces 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: The Coroner initially seems to be just an intensely weird mortician, but there are several hints dropped throughout his segments, including his consumption of 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 and revealing his wound at the end doesn't count, then him hopping up onto a gurney and revealing his toe tag certainly does.

     The Gas Station 
  • Ax-Crazy: The killer is an escaped mental patient who slaughters various people because he's either insane or just enjoys killing. Possibly both.
  • Axe Before Entering: The killer uses a sledgehammer to smash out the reinforced glass in the cashier's booth, and then breaks down the bathroom door when Anne locks herself inside.
  • Badass Bystander: Pete, the customer who forgot his credit card, ends up coming back for it during the climax. He attempts to wrestle the killer, and while he fails to stop him, his diversion allows Anne to activate the vehicle lift and crush the killer.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Pete, who returns at the end to help Anne beat the killer when he remembered he left his credit card at the station. Despite being quickly overtaken by the maniac, his intervention allows Anne to set her death trap for the killer
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Pete, one of the few people nice to Anne during her shift, forgets his credit card. After he remembers this, he returns at the end to (almost) save her from the killer.
  • Creepy Gas-Station Attendant: The one featured here is actually an escaped mental patient from who kills the station's owner and assumes his identity to keep killing people.
  • Deadly Nosebleed: The serial killer gets slammed in the face with a metal chair by Anne. When he gets up again, his broken nose indicates how severe the blow was and he falls down again. He eventually gets up once more.
  • Dead Person Impersonation: As Anne finds out, her co-worker Bill isn't the real Bill. He's actually the escaped serial killer mentioned on the radio earlier in the segment, and has been impersonating the original Bill to keep killing people.
  • Deconstructed Trope: Though the killer is a persistent threat, he's still just a regular person, so he can't easily shake off injuries like a standard slasher movie villain. After getting hit in the face with a chair, he falls over twice in succession and struggles to regain his bearings.
  • Drop the Hammer: The killer gains access to the locked cashier's booth by bashing the front window in with a sledgehammer.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: If you're attentive enough, you can guess who's behind the whole thing at the very beginning. The camera lingers for a second over the real Bill's picture, and you can see it's not the guy Anne had talked to earlier. However, they do look similar enough to miss this on a first viewing.
  • Gas Station of Doom: The segment is appropriately set in one, and it plays out like a Slasher Movie, wherein a new attendant working the night shift is stalked by a serial killer and tries to fight him off.
  • Implacable Man: The killer suffers a lot of abuse by Anne, but he keeps getting up each time to pursue her once again until he finally gets crushed underneath a car.
  • Machete Mayhem: The killer uses a machete as his main weapon.
  • Peekaboo Corpse: Anne is startled when she runs into the bathroom, yanks open one of the lockers, and the real Bill's corpse falls out.
  • Red Herring: Every customer at the station is implied to have nefarious plans for Anne, but they all turn out to be unrelated to the real killer: the attendant who showed Anne the ropes in the beginning.
  • Serial Killer: There’s one on the loose near the titular station.
  • Shout-Out: The killer is reported to also have escaped from a mental institution in Haddonfield, Illinois.
  • Slashed Throat: The fate of a homeless man who wanted to use the station's restroom, as well as the real Bill.
  • Slasher Movie: The segment plays out like a typical slasher, with a mystery killer murdering various people and menacing the heroine.
  • Wham Shot: As Anne attempts to call for help, the 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.

  • And I Must Scream: Even though Richard was in no position to, due to the wormlike parasitic aliens eating his brain, the zoom-in shot of his face shows he's doing so on the inside.
  • Baldness Angst: Protagonist Richard's fear of losing his hair is what leads him to try out an experimental remedy that gifts him with a massive mane of hair overnight. Then the hair keeps growing, and he realizes that it's actually a living creature.
  • Body Horror: Richard gets a mysterious hair growth treatment that results in him growing shoulder-length hair within a day's time. The hair then keeps growing and eventually covers his face, as well as other places where hair doesn't usually grow. It turns out that his new hair is a mass of wormlike parasites burrowing underneath his skin, instigating an invasion plot to find new human hosts and brains to dine on.
  • Brain Food: The hair growth experiment is actually part of a scheme by wormlike alien invaders to take over human hosts and eat their brains.
  • Cold Turkeys Are Everywhere: As Richard is obsessing over his hair loss, 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.
  • Dodgy Toupee: Richard gets a really bad toupee to cover up his hair loss. His girlfriend Megan and his hairdresser both dismiss it as making him look insecure.
  • Driven to Suicide: If what the Coroner says is true, Richard proceeded to jump from the top of a building at some point after the story, where he landed on top of a moving car, which then swerved in front of a train. What remained of his body was then dragged 900 yards under the engine.
  • Evil Gloating: The parasitic aliens 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. After this, Richard either regained enough consciousness to kill himself or was pushed to it by the aliens.
  • Fatal Flaw: Discussed. 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 a host and eat his brain.
  • Foreshadowing: When Richard and the Doctor first talk, the Doctor is rather condescending and gives Richard a slightly mocking smile. It initially seems as if he's just his being pompous and stuck up, but it actually reflects the contempt he holds Richard in, which becomes evident at the end of the story.
    • The Doctor's company is called Roswell Hair Growth Laboratories, which is a clear reference to the infamous alleged alien landing of 1947, since the Doctor himself is a host for the aliens.
  • Never Trust a Hair Tonic: The balding Richard Coberts 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 these "hairs" are really spindly wormlike aliens who want to eat his brain.
  • Prehensile Hair: Richard receives a hair transplant operation, which turns out to be a mass of brain-eating alien parasites that bite him after he plucks one from his tooth!
  • Puppeteer Parasite: The 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 segment features a balding middle-aged guy who receives a mystery treatment from a strange healthcare society. He grows a giant mane of hair overnight, but the hair just keeps growing all over his body, including his teeth. It turns out that the "hairs" are actually parasitic aliens who need human brains for food and it's already too late for him.
  • Rewatch Bonus: The Doctor's pompous and slightly mocking behaviour towards Richard at his consultation just makes him appear a bit stuck up. Once the ending comes along, it's striking just how contemptuous the doctor is of Richard, for reasons that become all too apparent by the end.
  • Space Whale Aesop: Being insecure about hair loss and is willing to try out mystery experiments will result in you becoming a host for parasitic aliens who will snack on your brain.
  • Sudden Downer Ending: The ending of this, the most light-hearted, humorous, and campy of the stories, really stands out. To stretch the point even further, the story has a comedic tune playing over its entirety and there isn't any build-up or threat in the ambience. Yet this is the one where The Bad Guy Wins, with the previously happy theme echoing over the sight of the main character losing all control over his own body.
  • Wham Line: The twist becomes clear with this line:
    Dr. Lock: You earthlings and your vanity! You are so predictably easy.
  • Your Television Hates You: Richard's insecurity regarding his hair doesn't improve when he watches TV and sees a shampoo commercial as well as a fertilizer advertisement that depicts a lawn with grass growing tall.

  • Career-Ending Injury: 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 an experimental eye transplant in an attempt to save his career.
  • Devil Complex: John Randle is mentioned to have called himself the Devil.
  • Downer Ending: Brent stabs himself in his donated eye and bleeds out. While this act ensures that Randle's spirit won't be able to kill again, it also leaves his pregnant wife in hysterical grief.
  • Driven to Suicide: Brent is unable to take the Randle hallucinations any longer, and stabs himself in his transplanted eye.
  • Eye Scream: What would you expect from a story like this? Brent specifically loses his eye through impalement twice.
  • Freudian Excuse: Brent finds out through a visit to the library and his newfound visions, that John Randle became a serial killer and necrophile largely because he was horribly abused by his mother, who would even put cigarettes out on his face when he was still in his crib.
  • Hallucinations: Brent's new eye gives him very grisly hallucinations, where he re-lives the experiences of John Randle, the posthumous donor of his new eye.
  • Magical Eye: Brent, a star baseball player, gets a new 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 and necrophile named John Randle, whose personality is starting to overtake his own.
  • Shear Menace: In life, John Randle is said to have used a pair of gardening shears as his weapon of choice. Brent tries to murder his own wife with a pair of shears when Randle's spirit attempts to possess him, briefly turning him into a murderous lunatic.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Randle's mother, who went as far as to put out cigarrettes on his face, while he was an infant.