After much anticipation, I finally got my hands on this movie. About three years ago I planned on watching this film but was re-routed to a movie called Mangiati vivi!, also known as Eaten Alive that was released in 1980. As I'm sure you can deduce from the title, it was Italian-made and basically followed suit with films of the same ilk from that era - if you're familiar with Cannibal Holocaust, Cannibal Ferox, or even Cannibal Apocalypse, Mangiati vivi! nestles up quickly to that unwholesome mediocrity, accepting its fate as just another scum-sucking .AVI lining the waste receptacle of an obscure torrent database.
So, after finally sitting down and starting the "proper" Eaten Alive, I saw the name Mel Ferrer appears in the opening credits. I nearly had a panic attack - and why, do you ask? I thought I was dragged back to the annals of Italian schlockiness once more and recoiled in horror as an all-too-familiar wave washed over me...one filled with god-awful dubbing and a soundtrack reminiscent of two cats fighting over a tin box filled with tambourines. Mel Ferrer also happened to play a role in Mangiati vivi!. Wow! Really? I'm sure conversations with him at dinner parties could be interesting when he mentions that he's been in two movies with identical titles. If I was ever at a dinner party with Mel Ferrer and discrepancies concerning Eaten Alive came up, I might seek counseling. Unless you're observant and care about strange occurrences such as this one, you've probably never heard of him.
Let's play a confusing little game. Eaten Alive was released in 1977 and goes by the name of Horror Hotel. On the flip side of this, Horror Hotel is actually a black-and-white film that was released in 1960 that stars a young Christopher Lee (if you don't know who Christopher Lee is by now, I'm giving up on you). Horror Hotel commonly goes by the title The City of the Dead which is oddly similar to a film directed by Lucio Fulci called City of the Living Dead, a film more commonly referred to as Paura nella cittą dei morti viventi, released in 1980. If you think this is a mouth full, wait until the day I discuss confusing installments such as Zombie Flesh Eaters and Zombi.
Eaten Alive is a product made possible by acclaimed director Tobe Hooper of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre fame...a film that almost everyone has seen or at least heard of. It made a great impact within the genre and I, among many others, consider it a classic. Certain elements exist in Eaten Alive that resemble Hooper's previous masterpiece but overall it's still a new spin on the realities of horror. It's interesting to note that the female lead of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Marilyn Burns, makes an appearance yet again to display her intense acting abilities to emulate the fears of a victim.
The plot concerns a deranged hotel owner by the name of Judd who wields a scythe and feeds his victims to his pet alligator. As certain individuals seek a place to stay for the night, one can merely guess the outcome of their existence. A woman ends up missing while her father and sister investigate further into her disappearance. The story is pretty basic and the atmosphere speaks louder than words. Its apparent Hooper embarked on a more surreal or dream-like approach to the set lighting techniques that are utilized. When fans of the genre discuss the source of Dario Argento's inspiration, one can't help but think that Hooper may have served as an example. A 30-year-old Robert Englund offers his acting expertise to top things off in this psychotic affair. The first line of this movie has been quoted endlessly, inspiring Quentin Tarantino who later added the line to his film, Kill Bill ("My name is Buck and I'm here to fuck"). Eaten Alive does have a Grindhousesque appeal so it's understandable why Tarantino was drawn to it.
So overall, what's the prognosis? Let's perform a breakdown.
- When comparing it to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, which was released 3 years earlier, it does manage to deliver and fans will see obvious similarities for sure. Despite popular belief, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was not as brutal and gory as some believe. In comparing both of these films, Eaten Alive forcefully takes the cake then throws it at you.
- Some of the acting was definitely sketchy. The male actor who played the missing girl's father was so devoid of emotion that even the statue of David has more facial expression.
- A scythe wielding madman chasing a frightened girl through the woods while she escapes in a stranger's car? What's that you say? Clearly a homage to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and if it's not, I'll eat my hat...if I wore one.
- The run time of this film is 1 hour and 30 minutes. Sadly, about an hour in, you'll find yourself checking your watch. The ending sequence will play out on a satisfactory level if you're willing to sit through enough filler to patch up a decrepit porch.
I gave this movie an average rating...and while I fully understand how flawed my rating system is, I still recommend it for any fan of raw and visceral-styled horror/survival of the 70's. It won't disappoint, and if it does, I'll eat my hat... again...if I wore one.