The first segment of this made-for-cable horror anthology from John Carpenter and Tobe Hooper, “The Gas Station,” stands out not only as the best of the three tales, but also the only one relevant to this website (fancy that). This little chiller is notable as one of the very few non-“urban” slashers to feature a black woman as the main protagonist — the so-called “final girl” who saves herself due to her courage, determination and ingenuity — and is quite possibly the ONLY example of a black final girl from a slasher in the 20th century. Too bad it’s only about 25 minutes long, but hey, that’s 25 minutes more screen time than any other slasher was willing to give to a black female lead until that point.
“The Gas Station” stars Alex Datcher (whom you might remember from Passenger 57 and…sadly, not much else) as Anne, a college gal looking to make a little extra money in the pre-Girls Gone Wild days. She ends up taking a job on the graveyard shift at a — yup, gas station — and has a first night that has “workman’s comp” written all over it. You see, there’s a crazed killer running around town, and Anne is not only working alone all night, but she’s stuck in a one-person, see-through attendant’s booth — like a sitting pheasant under glass.
The dish metaphor turns out to be appropriate, because through the night, a series of men — from the co-worker she replaces (Robert Carradine) to a string of customers (including horror icons Wes Craven and David Naughton; Sam Raimi also appears) — drop by and ogle her like she comes with a side of fries. It’s a setup that would be unnerving even if there weren’t a homicidal maniac running around, but knowing that one of them is probably the killer as well makes this a genuinely paranoid creep fest that, along with In the Mouth of Madness, is the best thing John Carpenter directed during the ’90s. (Fun Easter egg: in an homage to himself, he sets the story in Michael Myers’ hometown of Haddonfield.)