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Just like THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, EATEN ALIVE is yet another movie based (very loosely) on a true story. I heard it was inspired by a bar owner named Joe Ball, who kept a pool of alligators in his bar, and it was rumored that he often fed his patrons to these gators. When the police came to question him, Ball killed himself.
Tobe Hooper VERY loosely bases this incident in EATEN ALIVE. The story is about a deranged, nerdy person named Judd who runs a motel called Starlight in the middle of a swamp. When guests check into his motel, he murders them with a sythe and feeds their bodies to his ferocious, pet crocodile.
Neville Brand (Judd) delivers an insane performance, he's crazier than the Old Man (from TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE), but not quite as frightening and disturbing as Leather-Face. Marylin Burns even makes an appearance in here, too (she was the heroine, Sally Hardesty; also from TCM). Also, be on the lookout for Robert Englund as Buck (...) (he would later play Freddy Krueger in A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET). The crocodile effects could've used a little work though, the croc looks about as real as Barney the dinosaur.
On the up side about the film, I like how Tobe Hooper tried to "liven" up the film by using some unique lighting effects. These lighting effects are very similar to Dario Argento's Suspiria with the bright red and blues. Many consider Dario Argento to have started that whole "unique" lighting effect stuff, but Tobe Hooper actually beat him to the punch by two years! Maybe Eaten Alive was released before "artsy" horror films became popular.
Neville Brand is Judd, who runs the Starlight Hotel on the outskirts of a small Texas town. Libby (Crystin Sinclaire), a novice hooker, runs away from Miss Hattie's (Carolyn Jones, in some awful pancake makeup) and takes refuge at the creepy hotel. She arrives at night, Judd figures out she was one of Miss Hattie's girls, and throws her in the swamp. The swamp out back of the hotel contains a giant crocodile, which eats almost everything that comes its way.
The film then falls into a pattern that constantly repeats itself. More patrons come to the hotel, Judd picks this night to go nuts, and the crocodile out back gets to eat more than his share. Roy (William Finley) and his family arrive, Libby's dad (Mel Ferrer) and her sister arrive, Buck (Robert Englund) arrives, the sheriff arrives, my impatience arrives, etc.
While the crocodile attacks are very good (Hooper wisely keeps the shots dark), and the gore effects are okay, the script is a mess. Why did Judd pick this night to go bonkers? Has he been killing people all these years, or just now? The constant predictability kills the suspense.
Neville Brand, one of Hollywood's greatest underrated character actors, does a good job here until his performance eventually becomes stale. I am still trying to figure out why Carolyn Jones is covered in the horrible makeup, even her character is a little unnecessary. Poor Mel Ferrer does his best, but he has appeared in so many of these B horror movies, he looks totally bored. Robert Englund is good, his opening line is memorable, but his character is also just a small minded caricature.
"Eaten Alive" is by no means a great horror film, but if anything, it is a hundred times better than Hooper's later "Crocodile," one of the worst films ever made.
If you are a fan of campy horror movies, this one won't disappoint you. If you want a movie like "Chainsaw" that is really scary, look elsewhere.
Tobe Hooper hasn't been a great success as a director. "The TexasChainsaw Massacre" (1974), Hooper's debut as a director, was truly an inspired work, only to be followed by the lesser work reviewed here. "Poltergeist" (1982) was certainly a wonderful film, but the hand of Spielberg is too much in evidence for us to credit much of its direction to Hooper. Hooper followed "Poltergeist" with "Lifeforce" (1985), an overly long film whose high points were surely the extended physical displays of French actress Mathilda May, whose superstructure was astonishing and whose exposure was total. These occur near the beginning of the movie and at the very end. In between is tedium.
2400 years ago Aristophanes said of the obscene language in his plays that it was very hard to do right. The same, perhaps, may be said of film violence.
Most recent customer reviews
Just a reminder to anyone looking to buy this special edition dvd of Eaten Alive: Originally to be released on september 26th (like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Ultimate... Read morePublished on Sept. 30 2006 by Manuel Prince
Chainsaw is the perfect horror movie, and although this is no chainsaw, it is definitley the work of the same man. This is about as good a terror film can be without being TCM. Read morePublished on Jan. 18 2004
When Tobe Hooper released "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" in 1974, people went wild over this up and coming horror film director. Read morePublished on Dec 5 2003 by Jeffrey Leach
THIS WAS FAR FROM BEING A MASTERPIECE, HOWEVER FOR A ONE-TIME VIEWING, IT PASSES THE TIME QUITE WELL. Read morePublished on Sept. 12 2003 by Medric A Smith Jr
This movie rocks! OK, maybe it's not the best written, best-set movie in the world, but if you approach this movie without those expectations, it's actually pretty good. Read morePublished on June 13 2003 by Graham V. Foy
I remember believing, once upon a time, that director Tobe Hooper parlayed the success of his cult horror film "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" into the chance to direct... Read morePublished on April 9 2003 by Lawrance Bernabo
In "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre", Tobe Hooper managed to create a perfect mix of chaos, horror and very dark humour. Read morePublished on March 15 2003 by Calle