IT'S nowhere near Halloween, but that's not stopping John
Carpenter from unleashing new terrors.
Carpenter's career largely was cemented by his 1978
"Halloween," and while he's also made such diversions from chills
as "Starman" and "Memoirs of an Invisible Man," he's returning to
familiar territory with a new pay-cable trilogy.
"Body Bags," debuting Sunday on Showtime, makes Carpenter the
eerily disguised host as well as the venture's executive producer.
He also directed the first two of the stories: "Unleaded," with
Alex Datcher ("Passenger 57") as an attendant at an isolated gas
station; and "Hair," featuring Stacy Keach as a man who will do
anything to make sure he doesn't go bald.
Tobe Hooper ("The Texas Chainsaw Massacre," "Poltergeist") was
behind the cameras on the third segment, "Baseball Man," starring
Mark Hamill as a fellow with definite eye problems.
Also appearing in the compilation are Tom Arnold, Robert
Carradine, Sheena Easton, Twiggy, David Warner and horror-film
icons Roger Corman, Wes Craven ("A Nightmare on Elm Street") and
Sam Raimi ("The Evil Dead").
Carpenter (whose screen credits include "Escape From New York,"
Stephen King's "Christine" and the 1982 remake of "The Thing")
confesses that becoming an actor himself to introduce the tales was
the most daunting challenge he faced.
"I am not - I repeat, not - a very good actor," he says. "I had
a lot of people helping me out, though, and (Oscar-winner) Rick
Baker's makeup kind of gave me my character.
"Once I was into it, there were no problems. I had to say lines
and hit marks, and I think it will - make me slightly more
sympathetic as a director from now on."
Why did he decide to take on extra chores as an actor? "Why
not? Very seriously, this was a chance to do a project that I
eventually would own, and whenever you have a chance for that, as
opposed to being one of the hired guns, it's great. That was an
enormous incentive, and I also enjoyed the script. I thought, `It's
easy for me to direct these things, but I want to see what this
acting process is all about.'
"I went in with sort of a macho, `This-won't-bother-me'
attitude," Carpenter continues, "and I came out humbled a little
bit. It's rough to get up at 3 in the morning, and then go through
several hours of makeup." He states that he learned something else
from the experience: "I just don't like being in front of the
camera. Looking at myself afterward was awful. I'm certainly not
Nevertheless, Carpenter concurs that "Body Bags" keeps him in
his element. "People associate me with horror movies, - and that's
primarily because of `Halloween.' When I read the script" by Billy
Brown and co-producer Dan Angel, "I could tell that this was a TV
show made by, and for, people who love horror. …